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Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other one by a mountain range, VILLA RISO originated from MORGADIO DE ASSECA, eventually known as FAZENDINHA DE SÃO JOSÉ DA ALAGOINHA DA GÁVEA, whose borders went from the Boa Vista high ground to Gávea and to Jacarepaguá, and it was hometown to illustrious personages such as Salvador Correia de Sá Benevides, one of its first owners, and someone who also possesses a long biography as politician and a public figure. He earned his nomination as Admiral of the Southern Sea by his extraordinary deeds. Benevides was son to Marin Correa de Sá, who obtained the title of Governor of Rio de Janeiro in 1603, and grandson to Salvador Correia de Sá, First Captain-Mor of Rio de Janeiro.

Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides was born in 1594. He appears as a Man of the Sea in 1612, when still in his youth he accomplish the grand feat of taking a 30-ship fleet from Recife to Lisbon without being attacked by the Dutch. Such was his valor and military talents when put to the test in all battles he fought, that he is acknowledged as one of the greatest men of his time. He was married to Dona Catharina Velasco, daughter to the Governor of Chile. For accumulating several victories against the Dutch in Chile he was rewarded by D. Felippe in February 21st 1637 being appoint Captain-Mor and Governor of Rio de Janeiro. Appointed Fleet General through official documentation in March 26th he, following his natural inclination, and due to the fact that he saw his post of Fleet General as more important, delegated the powers attached to his other responsibilities, in order to apply himself fully to it.

Fighting against the Dutch in Angola he was victorious. He also served in Luanda, Congo, and founded a village in Zaire. After being Governor in that part of the Lusitano Empire for three years he returned to Rio de Janeiro, receiving as a reward the commendations of São Julião de Cássia, São Salvador da Lagoa and the title of Lord of Asseca, and of Alcalde Mayor in the city of Rio de Janeiro. He also had the privilege of engraving the likeness of two Africans into his arms family crest. Thus the MORGADIO DE ASSECA now known as VILLA RISO, come into being in a transaction executed in Rio de Janeiro on January 15th.

The main house in MORGADIO DE ASSECA where the lords of this small fief used to live is guarded by colossal palm trees planted by D. Pedro II himself around 1868, when he went to see a whale that appeared on the Gávea shore and got invited by senator João Pedro Dias de Carvalho to visit this farm he used to own back then.

When the Senator died his heirs sold most of the land belonging to Gávea as well other properties to Mr. Francisco Antonio Martins.

Around 1880 Counselor Antonio Ferreira Viana rented the farm to escape the policies of the current Governor Marechal Floriano Peixoto, and charmed by its natural beauties, he eventually bought it.

Counselor Antonio Ferreira Viana, an illustrious man, was born in what was then called Província de São Pedro do Rio Grande do Sul on May 11th, 1832. At the age of 8 he came to Rio de Janeiro along with all his family, to escape the “Farrapos” war. He did exceptionally well while studying at the traditional D. Pedro II school. In December 15th 1859, now 18, he graduated in Languages, moving to São Paulo where he started Law School. He submitted materials to nearly every newspaper in São Paulo, where he founded, together with Quintino Bocayuva, the “Jornal Honra” which became quite famous at the time.

In 1859, in Niterói, he married D. Josefina Sidônia Donenick Pacheco, Judge Joaquim José Pacheco’s daughter. Pacheco was also President of the Regional Court in São Paulo and brother to the Baronesa de Bella Vista whose ballroom was one of the most notorious ones back then.

He graduated from Law School in 1855 and was next appointed Federal Prosecutor of the Court as well as President of the City Counsel. He used his position to beautify the city and to build schools and hospitals. He was elected General Congressman by the Província do Rio de Janeiro five times in a row starting in 1868. While he was Justice Minister of the Empire starting on March 10th 1888, during Princess Isabel’s rule, she wrote the law abolishing slavery in Brazil in the library at what was then São José da Alagoinha da Gávea farm (today’s VILLA RISO) on May 13th 1888.

The Republic found him at Santo Antonio Convent where he got arrested, since it was known that the Counselor used to retired to said convent once in a while, and that is the origin of his nickname, “Priest” or Friar Antonio.

During his time abroad he was received by Queen Amélia of Portugal, and by D. Maria Christina, Queen of Spain, mother to Afonso XVIII. In London, he was a guest at Cardinal Maning’s castle. He was also received multiple times by H.H Pope Lion XIII, when he was presented with the Gran-Cross of Saint Gregory Magnus. Despite being a lay man, he possessed a Prayer Book of the Holy Faith with authorization to speak from the Pulpit, and a diploma which put him into equal standing with every minor priest from the Sao Francisco Capuchin Order. He also had and audience with Queen Victoria in England. In Cannes, Nice, Baden and Paris and was intimately acquainted with the Emperor D. Pedro II and the exalted Princess Isabel.

A great lawyer, he was a Patron to every great issue of his time. Author of many books, including José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva’s biography, he was famous as a philosopher, statesman, administrator, journalist, eminent orator, legal consultant and humanitarian, besides being Roman Catholic and a monarchist. He passed away on November 10th, 1903.

Great artists such as painter and architet Thomaz Drindell, (who by the way helped him with landscaping), and Bordallo Pinheiro among others, as well nobility and clergy, attended his gatherings. Many carriages rode on the boulevard filled with trees of many rare species, populated by birds and their varied songs. Fruit trees graced the gardens and orchards, such as mangoes, jackfruits, cambucas, jabuticabas, breadfruits, oitis and a large variety of palm trees.

Counselor Ferreira Viana was also the one who built the Gávea Road while he was President of the City Council in 1870, under the condition of having Viscount of Waldetário, who lived alongside the road, overviewing its maintenance.

Brown sugar was produced in the farm, as well as a famous schnapps he would give away to friends, for which purpose there were two stills and many pots.

His son Alberto Ferreira Viana sent this schnapps to an international expo in St Louis, USA, and won a silver medal as well as an Honorable Mention certificate.

Friar Custódio, one of Jardim Botânico’s founders, was a frequent visitor along with João Capistrano Abreu, the historian.

Many memorable feasts were held in this house, among which one in honor of Counselor Thomaz Coelho and another to Gaspar da Silveira, also a counselor, where the famous painter José Bento de Araújo captured the “Pedra da Gávea” on canvas. There used to be a diamond polishing industry in the neighborhood and two or three workshops, all powered by water wheels, where nearly every jewel maker from town would take their stones to be cut.

After Ferreira Viana’s death, the farm was inherited by his son-in-law Dr. José Pires Brandão, who later dismembered it, selling a portion to Cia. Jardins da Gávea, and keeping to himself the piece of land comprising the main house. In 1932, his heirs sold most of it to Dr, Oswaldo Riso, which now corresponds to VILLA RISO.

Dr. Oswaldo Riso was born in Rome on May 12th 1887, to Commander Vincenzo Riso, director of Banca Itália, and to Mrs. Tereza Riso Chiarle.

A brilliant student, he took part in the 1st National Selection Process by the State Railroad, ranking among the first candidates, and then undertaking the job of secretary of the Chief-Inspector of Movement in the State Railroads. He attended the Superior Institute of Commercial and Economical Studies and Foreign Languages, being a disciple to the first professor of Economy in Italy, Mestre de Montel. He was invited, due to his merits, into Banca d’Itália to be General Director. He finished his doctorate in Economic Science in 1914 with the dissertation “Commercial, Political, Customs and Monetary Law”, a highly praised work, and was invited to take part in the creation of the National Institute for Foreign Exchange. In 1915 he participated in studies in preparation for the war and was nominated 1st Lieutenant in the Royal Military Commission. Between October and December of the same year he took his first trips to Paris and London (Bank of England) on a special economic-financial mission for the royal government.

Many trips with the same purpose followed once he was appointed Inspector of the National Institute of Foreign Exchange. In 1919 he took part in the creation of the International Chamber of Commerce in Atlantic City, participating in their meetings until 1926. He comes to Brazil on a special mission in April 1921 making studies and negotiations for the creation of the Brazilian-Italian Bank and for the intensification of commercial exchange between the two countries. In January 1923 the Brazilian government through its Treasure Minister Mr. De Stefani accepts his plan, being appointed General Director of the Roman Bank.

He applied himself to several industrial reorganizations of a society going through a serious financial crisis, culminating in his participation in the salvaging of the Sedas group. Besides reorganizing the group – which was already going bankrupt – he kept the National Silk industry alive in Campinas S.A., which was the main institute of its kind in Brazil, originating the silk industry in the country. In order to do that he had to forego his position as deputy of Banca D’Itália and of Instituto Nazionale dos Câmbios in 1929, undertaking the full administration of these industries, of which he was elected Vice-President and Deputy Administrator. He always maintained the best of relationships with both the Brazilian and the Italian authorities, providing relevant services in practically all areas. The Constitution of Consortium by the greatest Italian shipyards and their respective representatives, bringing about the provision of submarines. He was also President of Cinzano S/A do Brasil and a consultant at Pirelli S/A do Brasil.

He was appointed by the Italian ambassador as Counselor of the Commercial Chamber in Rio de Janeiro, being a member of the Ouro Preto Historical Institute and of the Jaxarnadás Academy.
Upon purchasing the little farm called São José da Alagoinha da Gávea in 1932, and being a man of rare sensitivity, a lover of art and a great collector, he patiently restored what needed repairing and installed the Baroque Ornamentation on the road – which he bought during the demolition of the Santo Antonio dos Pobres church – when the place started to be used as a chapel for weddings. But the heart of the main house, as wells as its typical furniture, remained intact. Balustrade and scrolls by Mestre Valentin, icons sculpted by Mestre Aleijadinho, luminaires from the 18th century, all of this endures even today, thanks to Mr, Oswaldo Riso’s protective hands, for he preserved these walls, a true monument, where high personages once walked during two of the brightest Brazilian eras, the First and second Empires.

During the First Empire, and part of the Second one, it was Senator José Pedro Dias de Carvalho who served as a host to Emperor D. Pedro II and to José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, the patriarch, among other great names.

During the Second Empire and part of the Republic Counselor Ferreira Viana received the Counselors Domingos de Andrade Figueira, Gaspar da Silveira Martins, João Alfredo Correia de Oliveira, José Bento de Araújo, Frei João do Amor Divino Costa, and more recently, João Capistrano de Abreu, Eduardo Prado, Affonso Arinos, Olavo Bilac, Patrocínio Antonio Leitão among many others.

Breathing such a romantic atmosphere, Oswaldo Riso fell in love with a Brazilian woman, from Amazonas to be more exact, someone name Camélia whom he married in 1938 and with whom he had two daughters, Maria Elizabetta e Cesarina.

Camélia, a beautiful and talented woman was initiated in arts by her brother Garibaldi Cruz, studied painting with Guignard, Gez Heller, and sculpture with Humberto Cozzo, displaying her works in Rome, Zurich and in Brazil.

Keeping up his tradition of being good hosts, Osvaldo and Camelia frequently opened their home for cultural events attended by all the most representative members of society. It was usual for them to have guests such as Gabriela Mistral, Thomaz Mann, La Guardia, Stephazweig, Stravinsky, Gigli, Bergnstein, Calder, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Maria Callas. Guignard himself actually lived there for a while during a rough time.

A Catholic family by excellence, with an innate artistic sense, would never forget, but rather improve, as they did, every tradition in this wonderful manor from our colonial era, which always has something illustrious here and there.

Here we see the feminine grace displayed by the artistic arrangement of the gardens and the selection of plants and flowers, as well as the interior decoration of the manor, revealing Carmélia Riso’s artistic sensibility both in the whole and in the smallest of details.

Heir to the Riso talent and wealth, after her father’s death and her mother’s trip to São Paulo Cesarina took over what was already VILLA RISO, showing great competence. Being an artist dedicated to music she had started studying as a child and grew accustomed to the company of scholars and artists. She had her debut at the Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro in 1953, at the young age of 12, playing with extraordinary confidence and clarity Mozzart’s Concerto in D minor, conducted by Maestro Oliviero de Fabritiis. She also played solo conducted by the great Maestro Leonard Bernstein.

Traveling through Europe in 1954 she studied in Vienna with Seidlhoffer having as colleagues the conducers Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado and the concert player Marta Argerich. In Switzerland she studied with Edwin Ficher and in Italy with Carlo Zecchi.

She received an award at the Geneva Contest in 1957, and played with several important conductors, participating in many festivals around the same time.

In 1958 she married the great pianist Jacques Klein and then dedicated herself intensely to the pianistic career, taking part in concerts as his partner both in Brazil and abroad. She also played along with esteemed pianist Nelson Freire.

She married a second time in Italy to a theater, opera and television director, Mr. Carlos Maestrini, and for eighteen years accompanied him as assistant director in works at the arena in Verona, in the Roman Amphitheater of Ceasareia in Israel, in Berlim, in the USA and in South America.

Cesarina opened VILLA RISO in December 1982, after a long and thorough restoration signed by architect and painter Ricardo Sierra, turning the space into a Social and Cultural Center. She decided to open its many rooms, gardens and chapels to host weddings and other religious ceremonies, parties, permanent art and photography displays, auctions and demonstration fairs, parades, meetings, lectures, courses, seminars and other social celebrations such as cocktails and dinner parties.

In fact, VILLA RISO has been a cultural spot of sorts since 1932 when Cesarina’s father came to São Conrado and started receiveing in his home the finest and most representative members of society in the city.

Continuing her father’s work, Cesarina, motivated by the importance of the patrimony she inherited, never allowed the house to suffer the dilapidations so characteristic of modernism. On the contrary, she made the cultural art more dynamic, opening the rooms of the first floor to receive a permanent Art Gallery, where regular shows occur with a high artistic level. Mestre Valentin’s balustrades, that once witnessed the walk of the most elegant characters in the Empire, now live with the best there is in terms of visual arts, music, poetry, theater and others.

The social aspect, the weddings and receptions with full buffet service is what supports the cultural activities and the maintenance of VILLA RISO.

By expanding even more the activities, Cesarina is providing an opportunity for external tourism to share with us some of our history, getting to know us better as a result.

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