Archives for posts with tag: Mercado Central Sao Paulo

In 1933 the Mercado Central opened in the centre of Sao Paulo, establishing a covered venue for what had been a collection of street markets for all kinds of food. Harking back to the dominance of agriculture during the café com leite era ended by the Revolution of 1930, the agricultural products of Sao Paulo state were to be sold in what was a grand and decorative yet also a functional building.

Entrance to Mercado Central with coat of arms of city of Sao Paulo over

The cornucopias supporting the Sao Paulo crest are echoed in the fruit-filled urns surmounting the keystone caryatids – could this be the origin of Carmen Miranda’s famous millinery?

Cast iron ribbed roofing with Corinthian capitals

Cast iron ribbed roofing with acanthus leaf capitals

The Mercado’s architect was Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo (1851-1928), who ran one of the most prestigious practices of the time. He was the architect of what is now the Pinacoteca Sao Paulo gallery

a building which began life as a vocational school for the applied arts. The Mercado has also undergone changes of use – renamed the Mercado Municipal, and from 1969 transformed into a retail- and leisure-oriented space, while the sale of wholesale agricultural produce has moved to the larger, out-of-town-centre CEAGESP site at Vila Leopoldina. Like the Mercado, this site is also open almost every day.

The Mercado Municipal is a retail space where every conceivable kind of foodstuff is sold

You can't make a silk purse ...

Sold by Porco Feliz, without irony

including that essential for the feijoada pork and bean stew, pigs’ ears.

The food enthusiast can spend a happy hour or two shopping for the wares of vintners and butchers, fruiterers and fish-mongers (including piranha), sellers of herbs and spices, cheese-mongers, every kind of coster-monger … the variety of food is astonishing.

A mezzanine floor has been created inside the ample proportions of the market building. It has a good collection of restaurants of varied types, with a large common seating area crammed with chairs and tables, and a range of counters preparing the food bought to you by busy waiters. Going to the market is a family day out. In summer, the tables are cooled by large fans which spray misted water over the diners.

Themed stained glass

Paradise gardens

A striking feature is the series of stained glass windows on agricultural themes on the opposite side, above the food stalls.

stained glass

It’s a bird’s life

Imported from Germany, they depict the raising of the produce on offer below. Idealised even for 1930, there is little sign of the agribusiness engine of the Brazilian economy of today. Nonetheless, they are charming. They’re difficult to appreciate at a distance – click on them to see them across your screen. More on the Mercado’s history at

What’s missing from this picture? We couldn’t smell any freshly baked bread, though there are some few stalls which sell bread, and some of the older stalls serving food downstairs are famous for their bologna (mortadella) filled bread rolls. Perhaps food hygiene prohibits baking anywhere except in the padaria. What was stranger for Brazil was not being able to smell freshly roasted coffee – we didn’t spot a single stall.

They've Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil ... ?

They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil … ?

But you can visit any of six Nespresso shops in Sao Paulo, and more elsewhere in the country, where coffee is not so much a commodity as a high-margin luxury item, supporting the sale of expensive coffee-making machines which – truthfully – are nothing like as successful as the old Gaggia machine in any corner bar of Italian extraction. The staff are dressed in muted browns, the shop fittings are carefully co-ordinated, and you can serve yourself with capsule coffee. But that glorious smell is not in evidence there either. Strange country, Brazil.

A first glance at the public sculpture of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro suggests that the strong Brasilian sense of the visual is as evident here as in graffiti and street art, and indeed in everyday life.  From the turn of last century, sculpture decorated functional public buildings …

Entrance to Mercado Central, Sao Paulo, with bandeirantes seal above

… as well as the more usual cultural buildings …

Ticket window, Teatro Municipal, Rio

… and public monuments to the great …

Bandeirante pioneer Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, Parque Trianon, Sao Paulo

… and good …

Chief Scout Lord Baden-Powell, Praca Republica, Sao Paulo

… whether or not the inscription is in Brasilian Portuguese.

Architect of Italian unity, Jardim da Luz, Sao Paulo, República Federativa do Brasil

At times, the public work is quite exotic …

Street lighting near the Arcos, Rio Centro

… while domestic sculptural decoration is sometimes more restrained …

Cast iron, Santa Teresa, Rio

… and at times less so.

Furniture at the Museu da Casa Brasileira, Sao Paulo

A country for which the national symbol is a statue …

Cristo Redentor, Morro Corcovado (‘Hunchback Hill’), Rio – largest Deco sculpture in the world

… can be expected to have a tradition of studying classical sculpture …

Sculpture Gallery, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio

… certainly as plaster copies.

Copy of Greek warrior, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, for use in art classes

Not just a public monument, domestic sculpture also turns up regularly in museums and markets.

French bronze, Museu  Nacional de Belas Artes

Religious sculpture, like this Jesus and Joseph, is widely used …

Interior of Carmelite church, an ex-Imperial chapel, Praca Quinze de Novembre, Rio

… both inside and outside …

St Francis, Catedral de Sao Sebastian, Rio

Detail, St Paul, Praca da Se, Sao Paulo

… and on a small scale as well as larger than life-size.

Devotional figures, Last Supper, including Judas, Museu da Casa Brasileira, Sao Paulo

Funerary work is also strong; graveyards are a riot of statuary. More pictures to follow. UPDATE –  see  and

Actors’ gravesite, Necrópole São Paulo

Quasi-religious statuary can also be found …

Sphinx guarding Grand Lodge of Brasil, Rio

… as can more public celebrations of the arts …

Maestro Carlos Gomes outside the Teatro Municipal, Rio

… and of leading figures from other religions and cultures.

Praca Mahatma Gandhi, Rio. The Mahatma is a revered figure in Brasil

After helping the Portuguese to expel the French, Araribóia founded Niteroi in 1573

Civic leaders …

Faria Lima, Sao Paulo mayor from 1965 to 1969, on the road named for him

… and journalists are today’s subjects …

Statue commemorating newspaper journalist, Jardims bairro, Sao Paulo

… along with the occasional abstract art work …

Red Moon, Jardims, Sao Paulo

… but in a city of rectangular apartment blocks and offices, when the cars stop outside the sculpture museum MuBe (Museu Brasileiro da Escultura , these are the kinetic, highly-coloured sculptural objects they are stopping to photograph and admire.

Lamborghini showroom, Avenida Europa, Sao Paulo

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