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Since a portrait implies the past, present and future presence of the sitter, a principal task of naturalistic portraiture is to overcome the limitations of space, time and mortality (West 11). This is especially pertinent with regard to official state portraits, particularly these of monarchs, which have the additional function of reproducing and preserving personified symbols of ubiquitous and undying authority (Woodall 8). Ana Miranda's historical novel, O retrato do rei (1991) aptly employs portraiture as a central expression of authority for a system, such as absolute monarchy, where power emanates from one human source. In Miranda's narrative a portrait of the Portuguese King, Joao V (1706-1750) also serves as a barometer of changing attitudes of early eighteenth century Brazilians toward their Portuguese overlords. As Miranda's novel represents Brazilian colonists' response to the reigning monarch's portrait--moving from initial reverence to eventual indifference--it portrays a decisive moment in Brazil's evolution towards independent nationhood. Given the prevailing limitations of communication of the early eighteenth century (travel to and from Portugal and its far flung colonies by sea), transmission of the Portuguese King's authority via written documents throughout its empire was slow, costly and frequently delivered in an untimely manner. While no faster a medium of communication than written texts, Ana Miranda's novel presents portraiture as an effective alternative to convey royal authority in a colony where literacy is far from universal. Rather than a fresh parcel of royal documents the new monarch, Joao V, has a portrait of himself sent to his Brazilian vassals as an affirmation of the latter's reign over his distant colony. The narrator's description of the portrait itself is sparse: "A imagem apareceu diante dos olhos maravilhados dos homens: um jovem de olhar pacifico e resoluto. Sob a pintura, a inscricao: Johannes Portugalliae Reges" (33). This focus on the portrayal of the monarch's "olhar pacifico e resoluto" echos Jean Paris's studies of portraitures of the powerful. As Paris has noted, portraits of Kings represented an all-knowing authority and control, characterized by their "commanding frontal stare" placed on a "blank background," presenting an "absolute look" in an "absolute space" (Paris 15).

Professional & Technical
January 1
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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