Discover the main works of Aleijadinho, a Brazilian Baroque artist considered one of the greatest sculptors and architects of the colonial period

Few people know the story behind one of the greatest icons of traditional Brazilian art. Son of a slave with a famous Portuguese master builder, Antônio Francisco de Lisboa, better known as Crippled, is often quoted in books and in classrooms.

But, despite the nickname being known, the fame of the sculptor, carver and architect, considered the greatest representative of the baroque art in Minas Gerais, should be even more valued.

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The artist left an important historical-cultural legacy during the Gold Cycle, through his art at the same time that the historic cities of Minas Gerais were at the height of their development. With his sculptures produced in soapstone, his wood carvings and his beautiful designs for altars and churches, the artist has undeniably become the greatest reference when it comes to brazilian baroque art

who was Aleijadinho

THE Crippled, as he was popularly called, had a great contribution to the aesthetic languages he created in Minas Gerais, being recognized by specialists from all over the world.

At Aleijadinho's main works show the precision of the carvings and techniques used by the artist, always ahead of his time. Antônio Francisco Lisboa was born in the city of Black gold (formerly Vila Rica), on August 29, 1738. As a child, Crippled he learned to sculpt by observing the works produced by his father and his uncle Antônio Francisco Pombal, a renowned carver at the time.

Aleijadinho's story: when the disease began to manifest itself

Around the age of 40, the artist Crippled began to develop a degenerative joint disease, which at first began to reduce the movements of the hands and feet. Although it is not known for certain which disease weakened him, many historians suggest the hypothesis that it was leprosy. Popularly known as leprosy, this was undeniably one of the most feared diseases of antiquity. 

Information available about the Aleijadinho's biography it is said that after acquiring the disease, the artist asked a helper to tie his tools to his wrists and surprisingly continued making his creations. 

Including, one of Aleijadinho's main works was made at the end of his life. The Twelve Prophets it is considered by many to be his masterpiece, created at a time when his illness was already in a critical phase. The 12 prophets, carved in soapstone, were produced over a decade (1794 – 1804) and posteriorly marked the height of the artist's inspiration. Even with poor health, Crippled he maintained his technique and talent in the same way as before his illness. 

These twelve life-size biblical characters were made when he was 66 years old, ten years before the artist's death. The work of immense aesthetic and historical value is displayed to this day at the top of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, in Congonhas. The city is part of the route that passes through the historical cities in Minas Gerais and is just 56 km from Ouro Preto.

In the last two years of his life, already in very poor health, almost blind and with even more damaged limbs, Crippled he no longer had any resources and became increasingly dependent on the few relatives he had.

Aleijadinho's main works

One of the greatest Brazilian artists died in the city of Black gold around the year 1814 at the age of 76, poor and with very little recognition. The set of his works impresses to this day and attracts thousands of people to see his creations every year. Currently, Antônio Francisco de Lisboa is considered the most important artist of the brazilian baroque art.

At Aleijadinho's main works are considered the biggest pieces of the brazilian baroque art and can be seen in the Minas Gerais cities of Ouro Preto, Congonhas, Tiradentes, São João del Rei, Mariana and Sabará. There are sculptures, altars, pieces of sacred art, church facades and architectural projects that show the baroque style in the colonial period

Aleijadinho's main works: The Twelve Prophets 

Aleijadinho's main works

Photo: Wikimedia Common

One of the main works by Aleijadinho and probably the most iconic, is the set called The Twelve Prophets. Prophets seem to protect the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, in Congonhas. The work created by Crippled started in 1758 and years later, the entire complex entered the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Main works by Aleijadinho: Chapels Passos da Paixão de Cristo

Works crippled Minas Gerais

Photo: Wikimedia Common

The six chapels exposed in front of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, in Congonhas, in the state of Minas Gerais, bring scenes showing different stages of the Passion of Christ. The details show the artist's sophisticated techniques and recreate themes such as the last supper, Jesus being arrested, Jesus carrying the cross and being crucified. 

The artist created complete hyper-realistic sets, showcasing some of the most iconic biblical passages. 

Church of São Francisco de Assis, in Ouro Preto

Aleijadinho Minas Gerais works

Photo: Alexandre Amorim Photographer

in the church of Saint Francis of Assisi, in Ouro Preto, is one of Aleijadinho's main works, in which elaborated the basic design of the facade and decoration. 

The artist also carved some of the images of the church and its chancel, which contains several representations of saints and angels, so be sure to visit the chapel when you're in town.

Project for the facade of the Church of São Francisco in São João del-Rei

Minas Gerais

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Authored by Aleijadinho, the original project of one of the main churches of São João del-Rei was confirmed by the Museu da Inconfidência in Ouro Preto.

Church of Saint John the Baptist, in Barão de Cocais

Photo: trekearth.com

Built in 1763, the Igreja Matriz de São João Batista is in fact the most important attraction in the city of Barão de Cocais, in Minas Gerais. One of the highlights of the construction is the image of São João Batista, produced with soapstone, located in the niche of the main facade.

Image of Our Lady of Mercy

Photo: Wikimedia Common

The Nossa Senhora da Piedade Sanctuary – Patroness of the State of Minas Gerais is the target of intense visitation. One of the most important pieces of the set is the image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, produced by master Aleijadinho.

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