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Portrait of Emmanuel Rio

A work made of oil on panel.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on panel.




Albert Schindler
Austrian, 1805-1861

About this artwork

Previously known only as “a gardener and horn player,” recent research has identified the figure in this painting as Emmanuel Rio, an enslaved Brazilian man of African descent who was sent to Emperor Francis I in Vienna around 1820. About ten years old when he arrived in Vienna, Rio was enrolled in an elite private school, where he excelled in French, Italian, drawing, and especially music. Francis fostered his talent, gifting Rio a French horn on the occasion of his graduation. Despite his aptitude for music, Rio was assigned to work in the imperial garden.

In this portrait, produced a year after the emperor’s death, Rio holds his favored instrument while looking at an image of Francis, beneath which hangs a gold watch given to him by the monarch. The painting’s sentimentality does little to suggest the precariousness of its subject’s situation in Vienna, which only worsened after Francis died. For the rest of his life, Viennese officials moved Rio to various positions throughout Europe, threatened him with forced military service when he resisted, and, by the late 1840s, discussed sending him back to Brazil or to Africa.


On View, Gallery 221


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Albert Schindler


Portrait of Emmanuel Rio


Austria (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1836


Oil on panel


Inscribed lower right: Alb. Schindler 1836


39 × 31.7 cm (15 3/8 × 12 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Henry Tiefenbronner Endowment

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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