141 years since the death of the pioneer of portrait realism in Portugal

26 de February, 2024

Miguel Ângelo Lupi, a portraitist of bourgeois society between 1870 and 1880, is considered the pioneer of realist portraiture in Portugal. Born in Lisbon, he died on 26 February 1883.


The painter is represented in the long-term exhibition at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, namely in the portraits of Pedro Paulo Ferreira de Sousa, 1st Baron of Pernes and brave fighter in the Battle of Pernes in 1834, and his wife, the Baroness Helena de Águeda Bom (pictured).


In these paintings, the artist highlights the two personalities by depicting them against backgrounds worked in gradations of colour, giving the illusion of depth. The couple is portrayed eleven years after the baron’s death, which would have forced the artist to use an image, while his wife still posed for the artist.

Miguel Ângelo Lupi was born in Lisbon on 8 May 1826 to an Italian father and a Portuguese mother. At the age of 15 he entered the Lisbon Academy of Fine Arts. From 1841 to 1843 he was a pupil of Joaquim Rafael in the Historical Drawing class, winning two prizes. A pupil of António Manuel da Fonseca in the Historical Painting class from 1844 to 1846, he left the Academy that year to attend the Polytechnic School.


Between 1849 and 1860 he held various positions as a state official, one of them in the province of Angola. From these years we know of some works that were not very relevant to the painter’s career. In 1859, at the age of 33, he was invited to paint a portrait of King Pedro V for the Lisbon Court of Auditors, where he worked. With the pleasure of the king and the Academy, he obtained a state scholarship to complete his apprenticeship in Rome. Housed in the Hospice of Santo António dos Portugueses from the autumn of 1860 until the end of 1863, he never sought direct instruction from a master.


Interested in studying anatomy, the nude and portraiture, he copied works by Titian, Corregio, Rubens, Andrea del Sartro and Velasquez in small formats. He also works from live models, local scenes and figures and sketches small compositions inspired by literary themes such as Faust and Marguerite. He prepared the historical painting D. João de Portugal as his final proof as a State scholarship holder.


On his return from Rome and then in 1867, he visited Paris. This contact proved crucial in the painter’s formation. Touched by the realist current, particularly the work of Courbet, he introduced new intensity to the analysis and interpretation of the themes he worked on in the future, especially in portraiture. Arriving in Lisbon in 1864, he was immediately appointed Academician of Merit and Professor of Figure Drawing at the Lisbon Academy of Fine Arts, and in 1868 he took up the post of Professor of Historical Painting, which he held until his death on 26 February 1883.



Image Credits
Cover Photo: Occidente Magazine, Volume VI, Nº 153 of 21 March 1883 – Hemeroteca Digital