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Pernambuco State Museum

The State Museum of Pernambuco (MEP) was created on 24 August 1928, through State Law No. 1918.

Pernambuco State Museum

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 30/03/2020

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The State Museum of Pernambuco (MEP) was created on 24 August 1928, through State Law No. 1918. The law was pioneering in Northeast Brazil and in the country itself, and authorised the governor Estácio Coimbra to create the State Inspectorate of Monuments and a Historical and Ancient Art Museum.

In 1930, exhibiting only a few collections of paintings, the MEP was installed in the dome of the Palace of Justice. From 1934 to 1940, the museum’s collection remained under the custody of the State Public Library.

On 10 May 1940, the MEP was recreated by Decree No. 491. In this sense, its new facilities were inaugurated at 960 Rui Barbosa Avenue, on the corner of Amélia Street, in the locality of Ponte d’Uchôa.

The two-story mansion, which now houses the MEP, was built in the old imperial manor house of Dr Augusto Frederico de Oliveira, a maternal grandson of the Baron of Beberibe. In it is a beautiful garden full of acacias, flamboyants, mangoes, guava trees and rose apple trees, among others.

However in 1933, before being used as a museum, the site served as the headquarters of the 2nd Battalion of Hunters of the Military Brigade of Pernambuco. Currently, the MEP is a unit of the Secretariat of Tourism, Culture and Sports.

At the entrance of the manor house are two bronze griffins with eagle heads, lion bodies and serpent tails, as well as large pots of Portuguese pottery, which are scattered throughout the museum. In the garden are three lanterns and statues of priestesses – one Egyptian and two Roman – and beside the staircase are statues of Zouaves, the soldiers of the Algerian infantry in the service of France.

The marble front terrace is lined with statues of deities from classical mythology that preside over the various arts. They are, from left, Euterpe (muse of music), Polyhymnia (rhetoric), Erato (poetry), Mneme (memory), Melpomene (tragedy), Thalia (comedy), Clio (history), Calliope (epic poetry), Terpsichore (dance) and Urania (of astronomy).

Highlights of the MEP include Marajoara works of art, furniture made by the famous cabinetmaker Francisco Béranger, Portuguese porcelain and china, French pieces and two oil paintings on the Pernambucan Insurrection dating from 1709 (which came from the Olinda Chambers) depicting João Fernandes Vieira, Henrique Dias, André Vidal de Negreiros and Antônio Felipe Camarão.

In addition to these panels, other paintings can be appreciated containing images by the important characters of the Dutch invasion – Admiral Hendrik Corneliszoon Lonk, Colonel Diederik van Waerdenburch and Count Maurice of Nassau – paintings by the Dutch painter Franz Post, and some Dutch pieces found in Montes Guararapes: a pair of gloves, a chain of copper mesh and spherical cannonballs.

Brass and copper chairs and utensils, which belonged to Dutch households, are in the State Museum.

In one of the rooms, it is possible to see other oil paintings – the greatest ones in the museum – representing the three decisive battles that the Luso-Brazilians fought against the Dutch: the first one, at Monte das Tabocas, near the village of Santo Antão, and the last two at Montes Guararapes. The three panels show a great deal of detail.

Dating from 1641, there is in the MEP a Dutch-made bronze cannon measuring three metres in length that contains the emblem of the States General of the Netherlands and weighs 1,600kg. Behind the mansion is a small Portuguese artillery piece.
In another room, 16th-century Portuguese furniture made in jacaranda and worked leather stand out. The tables, for example, are solid in shape and their legs are turned and bulky. One can still see two full-size oil paintings depicting Emperor Dom Pedro I and Empress Leopoldina.

There are other highlights in the museum: the first is a 17th-century Child Jesus in clay, whose sculpturing was attributed to Friar Agostinho da Piedade; the second is an oratory with images from the 18th century; another is a 17th-century golden palanquin painted with Eucharistic motifs, which belonged to the Holy Body Parish Church, and through which the priests gave the extreme unction to the terminally ill; and finally a Portuguese Nativity scene, carved from the trunk of a yellow mombin tree and embedded in the wall.

Also exhibited in the MEP are oriental porcelains from the 17th and 18th centuries that belonged to the Ming and Qing dynasties.

On the upper floor of the mansion are 19th-century chromolithographs, a panoramic view of the state capital, taken by Frederich Hagedorn, and lithographs by artists from Eastern Europe, which are very valuable for the knowledge of old Recife between the years of 1830 And 1890. In the MEP are exhibited full-length portraits of Dona Leopoldina of Habsburg – archduchess of Austria and first empress of Brazil – of Dona Thereza Christina Maria de Bourbon – third empress of the country – and Dom Pedro de Orleans and Bragança – the second emperor of Brazil. It should be noted that other pieces of the museum are worth admiring, such as:

Paintings by Jerônimo José Teles Júnior, a 19th-century Pernambuco painter;
A collection of crockery, opaline and porcelain jugs;
A collection of ivory images;
A collection of 18th-century ex-votos;
Hoops and chests in gilded wood;
18th and 19th-century Pernambuco furniture;
An 18th-century clay Nativity;
An old Recife engraving;
A jacaranda oratory;
Showcases with a collection of fans;
Showcases with a collection of gold and silver objects;
A grand piano and glass mirrors.

In the MEP are exhibited some archaeological pieces from the 18th century: stone carvings, found in the occasion of the demolition of a house on the street Rua Vigário Tenório in Recife; and an inscription in Dutch – Nist Sonder Got, which means “Nothing without God”.

Besides permanent collections, temporary exhibitions and didactic activities, the MEP has been developing important cultural dissemination work through courses focused on museography and museology. Such courses are overseen by the Secretariat of Tourism, Culture and Sports, the Pernambuco Museum of Image and Sound, the Barro Museum of Recife, and other museums in Pernambuco.

With regard to the didactic activities of the State Museum, it is possible to emphasise the assistance given by the museum, which is aimed at raising the educational level of the users who visit its facilities. The MEP has therefore sought to revitalise the historical memory of Pernambuco, and has contributed to the cultural enhancement of the entire population.


Recife, 5 December 2003.
(Updated on 9 October 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.


sources consulted

AMARAL, Neusa. Museu do Estado de Pernambuco. Patrimônio Cultural de Pernambuco. Recife, a. 3, n. 32, ago. 1985.

BARBOSA, Antônio. Relíquias de Pernambuco. São Paulo: Editora Fundo Educativo Brasileiro, 1983

CAVALCANTI, Carlos Bezerra. O Recife e os seus bairros. Recife: Câmara Municipal do Recife, 1998.

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

GIBSON, Gustavo. Informações sobre o parentesco de Augusto Frederico de Oliveira (neto materno) enviadas por e-mail em 24 de abril de 2012.

SILVA, Leonardo Dantas. Pernambuco preservado. Recife: Edição do Autor, 2002.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Museu do Estado de Pernambuco.  Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em:dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.