Research Project Blog Post: The Work of Aleijadinho

For my research project, I wish to examine the sculpture and architecture of Antônio Francisco Lisboa (Aleijadinho). The motivation for this project comes from my general interest in religion and its relationship with identity, society, and politics. This project would attempt to answer the question of what Aleijadinho and his work reveal about Brazilian identity and culture. Aleijadinho’s work has overwhelming religious themes and are all incredibly intricate. This project would seek to explain why such large amounts of resources and care were used in these creations. Additionally, it would unpack the implications of these structures in an attempt to discover broader social values and power structures in Brazil during their creations.

The primary works I would consider are the Church of São Francisco de Assis and the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. The Church of São Francisco de Assis is located in Ouro Preto, Brazil. It is known particularly for its front alter, which is covered in intricate carvings of religious scenes and symbols, and its towers. There are two primary focuses within the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. The first are the sculptures of the stations of the cross and the twelve prophets. The second is an image of the crucifixion above the altar, which is located inside the structure. Images, videos, and interactive websites that show these buildings and sculptures are digitally accessible.

As we have already established as a class, Catholicism is an essential component to the understanding of Brazilian history. It is used in varying forms, from a tool of colonizers for the justification of slavery, to an embraced and cherished faith of many (and everywhere in-between). Catholicism is significant not only as a prominent religious tradition, but also as a way to understand power dynamics and social hierarchies in Brazilian culture and society.

This topic, or generally the study of religious architecture and sculpture, is historically significant because buildings and sculptures are physical creations that represent broader social and political concepts. The addition of the Church to these social and political implications complicates the narrative and adds religion, specifically Catholicism, to the list of factors that influence Brazilian culture. The implications of  these structures, their preservation, and continued significance, suggest a certain level of continuity in Brazilians’ collective understanding of these structures as historically important and physical components of Brazilian identity.

Primary Sources:

De Lio, Arthur. “Caminhos da Arte – Documentário sobre Aleijadinho.” YouTube. September 28, 2016. Accessed February 12, 2018.

Lisboa, Antônio Francisco, 1730-1814. 1800-5. Church of Congonhas do Campo and the Prophet’s Atrium Sculpture: det.: Ezekiel: ninth figure from left.

Lisboa, Antônio Francisco, 1730-1814. 1772-94. Main Chapel and Altar of St. Francis of Assisi’s.

Lisboa, Antônio Francisco, 1730-1814. Ouro Preto, Brazil: Church of Our Lady of Carmo: facade.

Lisboa, Antônio Francisco, 1730-1814. 1772-1794. Ouro Preto, Brazil: St. Francis of Assisi facade – Monumental portal & Medallion.

Secondary Sources:

Bald, Sunil. “In Aleijadinho’s Shadow: Writing National Origins in Brazilian Architecture.” Thresholds, no. 23 (2001): 74–81.

Bury, J. B. “The ‘Borrominesque’ Churches of Colonial Brazil.” The Art Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1955): 27–53.

Hogan, James E. “Antonio Francisco Lisboa, ‘O Aleijadinho’: An Annotated Bibliography.” Latin American Research Review 9, no. 2 (1974): 83–94.

Maddox, John. “The Aleijadinho at Home and Abroad: ‘Discovering’ Race and Nation in Brazil.” CR: The New Centennial Review 12, no. 2 (2012): 183–216.

Smith, Robert C. “The Colonial Architecture of Minas Gerais in Brazil.” The Art Bulletin 21, no. 2 (1939): 110–59.