16th century, Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real has stared piercingly at the Confederation Building from his Parkway perch—with just one interruption—for over 45 years. The work of sculptor Martins Correia was given to the province in 1965 by the Portuguese Fisheries Association on behalf of the Portuguese White Fleet that fished the Grand Banks for centuries.
Corte-Real’s presence in Newfoundland dates back to 1501. Receiving orders from the king to explore and claim land in the New World, Corte-Real sailed with three caravels to what is thought to have been either Labrador or eastern Newfoundland. Before returning, the expedition captured 60 native people, probably Beothuk, who were sold as slaves upon their vessel’s return. Corte-Real was almost as unfortunate when he and his his ship dissappeared on the voyage home.
In early 1999 his luck got worse when a car, apparently chauffeured by a speeding Ontario tourist, jumped the curb at the top of the Parkway and slammed into the pedestal that supports his confident, bronze pose. The statue itself was unscathed, but its base was mangled. Later that year Ottawa bronze restoration specialist Craig Johnson subcontracted local foundry Sculptures by Luben to undertake the repairs while Johnson himself repainted the statue. According to local sculptor Will Gill, who did some of the work, no scars remain from the accident and Corte-Real was returned to his original condition.
– Lesley Thompson
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