This work is currently installed in the exhibition El Dorado: Myths of Gold at Americas Society.
The German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas was among the first European artists to visit the Americas in the 19th century, inspired by the voyage to the region undertaken by German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, whom the painter met in 1824.
This tireless traveler explored the region, leaving a legacy of faithful representations of the local landscape and abundant ethnographic information about the countries he visited. Rugendas came to know Brazil on his first trip, in 1821. On his second trip, undertaken between 1832 and 1847, he visited Haiti, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. He spent the most time in Chile, incorporating himself into the local social and cultural environment, registering in his works the most illustrious individuals and customs in addition to the natural landscape.
This painting, which depicts a distant view of Valparaíso, Chile’s most important Pacific port, originated during his stay in this Andean nation. In the foreground, a group of hikers contemplates the intense boat traffic of the port from the outlying areas surrounding the city. The detail with which Rugendas depicts the human figures and the objects that fill the composition make this work a valuable document of port activity, and of the travels and fashions of distinct social classes in 19th-century Valparaíso.