Amazonia: The Langsdorff Collection

In Russian science, the name of Grigory Ivanovich Langsdorff (1774-1852) is inseparably associated to the first Russian expedition to South America (1822-1829). The naturalist Langsdorff had his first encounter of Brazil as a member of the famous round-the-world voyage headed by I. F. Kruzenstern (1803–1806), when he visited the State of Santa Catarina in the south of the country. In 1821, Langsdorff, being Russian Consul in Rio de Janeiro, submitted a project of an integrated expedition for the study of the nature and population of Brazil. From 1821 through 1828 the expedition carried out explorations and made collections in several provinces of the country, including the regions of Amazonia then totally unknown to European science. Langsdorff’s diaries and collections, including most valuable ethnographic materials collected among the Munduruku, Bororo, and Apiacá Indians, arrived in St. Petersburg, but were not studied for a long time as there was no supporting documentation for them. In the early 20th century, through the efforts of ethnographers Heinrich Maniser and Karl Gilsen, these materials were returned to the science. The objects of the traditional culture of the Bororo, Munduruku, Apiacá, Guato, and other Indi-ans collected by G. I. Langsdorff in the first third of the 19th century have become the most valuable part of the South American collection of the Kunstkamera, and are world-known today. Some of them are unique, and the other ones have counterparts in collections of the same time in European museums. The parade dress set of a Munduruku chief, which is presented today at the Latin America permanent exhibition, has a special place in the Museum’s collection.

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