90 Years of the sculpture O Beijo (The Kiss)

19 de January, 2024

Incorporated in the Soares dos Reis National Museum’s collection in 2001, after being acquired the previous year at the Canto da Maya collection’s auction, the Baiser (The Kiss) sculpture completes, in 2024, 90 years of its creation.


The Kiss is a modernist artwork in patinated clay highlighting aspects of a figurative art that explores the ideal of returning to the European roots, along the lines proposed by the sculptures Antoine Burdelle and Aristide Maillol, a movement that won popularity in Paris by the 1920s.


In the set of Canto da Maya’s work, The Kiss fits in a phase in which the sculpture exalts what is exuberant and sensitive, in the search for the essence of the human being. The figures go completely out of the canons and are modelled in clay, the ideal raw material to shape the notion of eroticism.

Canto da Maya reduces bodies to their basic form, modelling in clay the figures embracing each other, sitting on the ground; the dense volume shows smooth surfaces and curved lines. This technique is suggestive from his vision of Sculpture as a Primitive Art.


“Ernesto do Canto Faria e Maia was born in Ponta Delgada, in 1890. With artistic training in Lisbon, Paris, Geneva and Madrid, and the most consecrated and international career of a Portuguese sculpture in the first half of the century, Canto da Maya stands out among the figurative modernism percussors with an original decorative aesthetic.


Between Paris and Lisbon, he created sculptures – large sets, little figures of terracotta or plaster, busts, bas-reliefs, metaphorical figures of the circles of life or femininity – whose anatomical expressiveness and poetic ideality were highly awarded, and chosen to represent the French art (Tokyo and Osaka, 1926), and Portugal, in multiple universal exhibitions (Paris, 1937; New York, San Francisco, 1939) and in the São Paulo’s Biennial (1957).


He also played a central role in the art deco’s exploration, collaborating in projects with famous architects. A mid-career turn takes him from the pioneering reinvention of figurative sculpture to the nationalist academism, in a long official campaign of monumental sculptures aimed to praise the patriotic propaganda of the New State (Estado Novo), earning him the Degree of Officer of the Military Order of Sant’Iago da Espada (1941).


Despite the different phases and faces, the work of Canto da Maya keeps on attracting successive honors and retrospectives since the 1930s, in Portugal and in France. Canto da Maya died in Ponta Delgada, in 1981”.