In December 2016 while in Amsterdam, I visited the Rijksmuseum for an exhibition of newly-discovered works by Frans Post (1612-1680), the Dutch painter who traveled to the Brazilian territory under control of the Dutch after their invasion of 1630 and onwards, brought by the German prince Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), known as “the Brazilian” for his role as governor of Dutch Brazil. It was a short period, their settlement, though the area under domination by the Dutch Republic extended to almost half of Brazil's settled European area at the time, with their capital in Recife.
Frans Post was one of the artists commissioned to paint some of the first landscapes in the country, and possibly the best alongisde Albert Eckhout (1610-1665). But they not only painted the landscape, the species and the cities they built, but embued with that typical European curiosity, though so childish and arrogant, they hunted and stuffed several members of different species as models for painters and for the education of the Dutch public. And it was thus that one entered the Rijksmuseum first room dedicated to Frans Post's work, and was not only faced with his painting “View of the São Francisco River with capybara in the foreground” (1639), but also a capybara herself, dead and stuffed, hunted in those years, a seventeenth century capybara which might have swum in those very waters of the São Francisco River, as mythical and literary as the Rhine is for the contemporary Germanic tribes.
I must now be very careful in how I should proceed, what vocabulary to use, lest my dear European readers roll their eyes at the uncouth mystical Southerner daring to address them. Let us say I experienced a near vertigo looking at that stuffed capybara, once alive, and had to leave the room for a while. I had already been steeped into the work of Brazilian writers such as Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Clarice Lispector, or foreign thinkers such as Bruno Latour, and maybe the knots of humanism had finally begun to loosen, for I believe it was the first time that such a proud display of violence struck me as so utterly obscene.