Sacred art will gain a whole new meaning when you have the chance to experience the work of Aleijadinho, a master baroque sculptor and icon of Brazilian art. Despite losing the use of his fingers, Aleijadinho’s paintings, statues, carvings, and sculptures are works of mastery and wonder, a testimony to the power of will and devotion.
The 18th-century artist was born Antonio Francisco Lisboa, but is better known by his nickname, “Aleijadinho,” Portuguese for “little cripple.” It’s believed Aleijadinho suffered from a degenerated disease that caused the deformation of his limbs and even the loss his fingers. Yet he continued sculpting with a chisel and hammer tied to his fingerless hands, working often with great suffering and pain.
According to a biography of the artist (which has been criticized for being dramatized), Aleijadinho continued to work intensely even as the disease progressed. He worked on the design and construction of churches, on the life-size statues outside, and on the outstanding painted ceilings and the paintings within. Aleijadinho became a master in his own right by giving life to wood and stone with creative representations from the Bible, as he mixed many styles of baroque and explored rococo and even classic and gothic elements in his work.
Museu Aleijadinho, housed in the Church of Our Lady of the Conception (Nossa Senhora da Conceição) in Ouro Preto, an old colonial town in Brazil, contains many examples of his sacred art. His work can also be seen at three historical churches in the center of Ouro Preto, such as the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, which was recognized by UNESCO in 1985 as one of the world’s prime examples of baroque art.
Know Before You Go
Entrance to the museum is about 3 USD.