Soares dos Reis’ illustrations for Luís de Camões’ ‘The Lusiads’

14 de March, 2024

Although he is recognised as one of the most acclaimed Portuguese sculptors, António Soares dos Reis was also an outstanding draughtsman, having collaborated with drawings of his own for the illustrations of various works. Examples of such drawings are those he produced for ‘Os Lusíadas: poema épico em dez cantos’ (The Lusiads: an epic poem in ten cantos), by Luís de Camões, published in 1878 by the Imprensa Nacional.


Directed by Duarte Joaquim dos Santos and Aristides Abranches, this is a bilingual edition, in Portuguese and French, translated by Fernando de Azevedo, with a prologue by Manuel Pinheiro Chagas, drawings by Soares dos Reis and engravings by J. Pedroso.


For this publication, Soares dos Reis contributed the following drawings: Camões (title print), Council of the Gods (1st canto), The Nereids (2nd canto), Murder of D. Inês de Castro (3rd canto), The Old Man of Restelo Beach (4th canto) and The Assault on Veloso print (5th canto).


The edition of this work dates from 1878 but it was only finalised and sold two years later, in 1880, the year of the celebration of the tercentenary of Camões’ death.


António Soares dos Reis made several studies before finalising the drawings, some of which are in the collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum.


Considered one of the most important figures in Portuguese literature, Camões is the author of Os Lusíadas and is acclaimed as one of the world’s leading masters of epic literature.


As much as his life was suffered and troubled, the poet is noted for his refined education, which allowed him to establish intimate and inspiring contact with the references of the poetry of the time. It is estimated that Camões was born somewhere in the first half of the 16th century, in 1524, and the 500th anniversary of his birth is now being commemorated.


Camões was a member of the court as a lyric poet, although he led an incautious life that led him into self-exile in Africa. It was there, as a soldier in the Portuguese army, that Camões lost his right eye and ended up returning to Portugal. However, he travelled again, this time to the Orient, where he wrote The Lusiads, a work he almost lost on the high seas. The poet died aged 55 and is buried in the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon.