• 1974
  • Canvas
  • Oil
  • Inv. 81P934

Nikias Skapinakis

Encontro de Natália Correia com Fernanda Botelho e Maria João Pires

The work Encontro de Natália Correia com Fernanda Botelho e Maria João Pires (Encounter of Natália Correia with Fernanda Botelho and Maria João Pires), by Nikias Skapinakis, is the last in a thematic series entitled Para o estudo da melancolia em Portugal, which the artist began in 1967 with the work As Três Graças. The two works are linked in their approach to the group portrait, with female figures formed on the canvas on a white background, cocooned in silence despite coexisting in the same visual and symbolic space.

However, while in As Três Graças the figures find themselves grouped together in the centre of the composition, on one same level of shapes and colours, Encontro de Natália Correia… introduces a fundamental distinction between the figure on the left – the poet Natália Correia – and the two figures on the right seated on the floor, the younger models, the writer Fernanda Botelho and the pianist Maria João Pires.

The symbolic polarisation is twofold: firstly, in the partial distancing of the figures towards either side of the painting, and secondly, the vertical unevenness of their positions, with a queen-like Natália Correia, sitting in profile, simultaneously vigilant and maternal, staring into the infinite distance. Symbolic and existential disproportion is evident, not just in the age of the protagonists, but in their life experiences and the central role each one of them played in the cultural arena of Portugal at the time. In this way, the painter grants Natália a different status in the composition, observed in the elevation of her body in a café chair – alluding with this single banal object to Botequim, a Lisbon café bar, which Natália Correia established and managed from 1971 with Isabel Meireles, Helena Roseta and Júlia Marenha and which was a meeting place for intellectuals and artists.

The Para o estudo da melancolia em Portugal series ended with this work, although a final piece had been in preparation (with the poets Mário-Henrique Leiria and Mário Cesariny). With the change of political regime, on April 25th 1974, the dream of free expression of words and happiness became a reality in the nascent democracy. For Nikias Skapinakis, perhaps, a study of melancholy, drawn out under the grey shadow of dictatorship, that meant bitter indifference to numerous Portuguese artists and intellectuals, ceased to make sense. In these paintings, the subjects of his portraits – even when embraced in the security of their affective groups or professional classes (Os críticos, 1971) – are always portrayed with closed mouths, in an eternal silence, like exotic birds in captivity immobilised in an enclosed and ethereal space. With its flattened and cut-out-like figures on a uniform background with neither floor nor ceiling, Encontro de Natália Correia…, like other works from the same series, reflects the period of conditioned liberty which would become history, idealised by the artist in a new iconographic sequence: Os Caminhos da Liberdade (The Paths of Liberty).


Ana Filipa Candeias
May 2010

Updated on 01 may 2023

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