December 12, 2012

Pequenitos In Portugal, Portugal Dos Pequenitos

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

I'm sorry, did I miss an entire day? I've been trying to wrap my head around the amazing photographs that DT photomaster DT sent along with some offhand comment like, "Hey, playhouse with toy Moorish cannons?" and "thought you might like the furniture in this one,"

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

even though he knows full well that he's set me up to crawl through all 193 unidentified, undated images in the flickr set, Estúdio Mário Novais | Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal. Which, yes, the only caption is in Portuguese, and it reveals nothing.

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

But I think I've figured it out, mostly. Partly. Mario Novais was a Portuguese modernist photographer who died in 1967. In 1985, the Biblioteca de Arte / Art Library Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian acquired the 80,000+ photos and negatives in the Novais archive, and has been digitizing them since the mid-2000s.

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

Beira Litoral is, was a province in Central Portugal between 1936-76. So Novais, who set up his studio in 1933, apparently did commercial/documentary work for the Junta, the administrative council with governed the province under the authoritarian Estado Novo regime.

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

And so somewhere in Beira Litoral is a tinytown run by nuns and populated exclusively by adorable children? It's worth figuring this out where this is just to get a hold of some of these boats and Madeline hats:

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

Or some of these little, kid-size tubular steel chairs. 1930-what are we talking about here?

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

I mean, wow, stop with all the cute for a minute, just so I can catch up:

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

Clearly, a field trip of some kind was planned, unless this is really where this kids live. And drink their milk:

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

I had to look closely at this one:

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

Those are cribs. Cubicles were not invented by Robert Propst for Herman Miller in 1967. They were invented at least 30 years earlier, by fascist junta nuns in a Portuguese orphanage/school/daycare to keep kids from waking each other up. Half dozen of one...

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

Hey,wait, finally anything to Google for! There's an inscription on that statue of Alfonso o Conquistador, the first king of Portugal, which would explain the Moorish cannons:

Junta da Província da Beira Litoral, Portugal

"Fixem as crianças
este Nome
esta Figura
e esta Idéa
1940"

"Fix them as children/ this name/ this figure/ and this idea." Also, we have a new date parameter. And bingo, A lone German Google hit. This is Portugal dos Pequenitos, Portugal for The Little Ones, a kid-size nationalist theme park in Coimbra, created in 1938-1940 by University of Coimbra professor Bissaya Barreto, and designed by Cassiano Branco. It still exists, in color, and you can take a walk through a short-ceilinged version of Portugal's idealized colonial glory today if you like. Sounds complicated.

So unless this really was a field trip, it doesn't have any connection to the nuns and kids and the sweet tables and chairs. The search continues.

What miniaturized nationalist propaganda theme parks does your family like visiting in your waning colonialist empire? Were your grandparents raised by Galician modernist nuns? Tell us in the comments or like this post on Facebook!

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