The King’s Fountain

The King’s Fountain, in Portuguese Chafariz d’El-Rey, is a 16th-century oil painting by an anonymous Flemish painter. 

The painting is dated c.1570-c.1580 represents an urban scene set around the Chafariz de El-Rei in Alfama, Lisbon, the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal.

The frame concentrates on a mixed crowd with various social groups: the Portuguese, Jewish-Portuguese, Free Africans, and African Slaves.

They perform the most diverse tasks, carrying water or ironers full of debris, unloading the boats, or being taken away drunk to jail. 

Some scenes are very unusual and surprising (or not):

An African at the helm of a small vessel, while the colleague plays the tambourine to sweeten their romantic relationship with white passengers;

A slave figure (on the “dance floor” on the left) carrying a pitcher on the head and held by an iron chain that connects the neck to the feet;

An Afro-Portuguese knight endowed with the heraldry of the Order of Santiago in the foreground;

And, at the ball, we can see a dancing pair formed by a black man, apparently wearing shoes, and a white woman, barefoot!

At the windows, the Portuguese contemplate the spectacle, which is noisy, marked by music and dance.

Note: It was regulated, according to the skin color and the social status of users, the use of spouts from different urban fountains (Municipal Posture of 1551). 

On display at the “Pálacio da Bacalhôa” in Azeitão, Portugal, from the Berardo Collection.

Text Source: Wikipedia (edited and proofreading). 


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