About this artwork
Previously known only as “a gardener and horn player,” recent research has identified the figure in this painting as Emmanuel Rio, an enslaved Brazilian of African descent who had been sent to Emperor Francis I in Vienna around 1820. Rio, who was around ten years old when he arrived in Vienna, was enrolled in an elite private school where he excelled in French, Italian, drawing, and especially music. Francis fostered his talent, gifting Rio a French horn on the occasion of his graduation. Despite his aptitude for music, Rio was assigned to work in the Imperial Garden.
In this portrait, produced a year after the emperor’s death, Rio holds his favored instrument while looking at an image of Francis, beneath which hangs a gold watch that had been a gift from the monarch. The painting’s sentimentality does little to suggest the precariousness of its subject’s situation in Vienna, which only worsened after Francis died. For the rest of his life, Viennese officials moved Rio to various positions throughout Europe, threatened him with forced military service when he resisted, and, by the late 1840s, discussed sending him back to Brazil or to Africa.
- Albert Schindler
- Portrait of Emmanuel Rio
- Made 1836
- Oil on panel
- Inscribed lower right: Alb. Schindler 1836
- 39 × 31.7 cm (15 3/8 × 12 1/2 in.)
- Henry Tiefenbronner Endowment