I have always been really interested in this painting. It depicts a Brazilian family circa 1895 in the state of Piauí in Northeastern Brazil. The racial angle is interesting, as it shows each generation getting lighter and more European in appearance. Brazil was the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery (1888) however it had been on the decline in most of the country for the last couple of decades as increased immigration to the nation brought immigrant laborers (Germans, Spanish, Italian, Lebanese and other) and African slavery was more isolated in the north where the Caribbean-style plantations were.
What’s an interesting juxtaposition with the Southern USA at the same time period is that the end of Brazilian slavery didn’t bring on a rush of miscegenation laws and social restrictions toward Afro-Brazilians. While personal prejudice and socio-economic conditions certainly existed and created its own castes, there were not laws created to keep former slaves in a separate category racially. The mixed-race population was already the largest in northern Brazil due to slavery’s exploitation of women, and the fact the earlier waves of Portuguese immigrants rarely brought across wives and families. The grandmother appears African, the daughter mixed-race, her husband European, and the baby very light-skinned.