The famous man behind the equally famous white moustache and glasses, Rui Barbosa was a politician, writer, jurist, and the man responsible for some of the more controversial (and unsuccessful) fiscal policies of early twentieth-century Brazil. A staunch defender of civil liberties, he recognised the shame of Brazil’s delayed abolition of slavery and became known as the Eagle of The Hague for his role in the Hague Peace Conference of 1907.
History lessons aside, he also owned one of the grander neo-classical houses still standing in the once-aristocratic Botafogo, open to the public along with its wonderfully calming gardens as a monument to the man’s wide reading (there are over 37,000 volumes in the upstairs libraries) and political might. Indeed it was the first museum of its kind upon inauguration in 1930, six years after Barbosa’s death following which the government bought the building, determined to preserve the legacy of a man who twice stood for president.
Barbosa bought the house from an Englishman, John Roscoe Allen, in 1893, and lived there with his wife and five children until his death. The guided tours today take you through offices and bedrooms, ballrooms and libraries, perfectly preserved and looking like the owner is about to return any moment and hold court with some fellow deep thinkers. Beautiful tiling and impressive furniture abound, while the gardens still house the three cars he proudly owned, among the first in Rio de Janeiro.