Soapstone in two blocks, 214 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil (1757-1805).
Baruch does not enter the list of Major Prophets. Rather, he is regarded as a Minor Prophet. He lived in Babylon, and his writings confirm that the chosen people did not hear the words of the prophets, reason why they were in captivity. He was a learned man, a Jewish scribe who transcribed the sacred texts of the Torah scrolls. He allegedly wrote five books of the Old Testament – sayings of Baruch – and a sixth, with the prophecies of Jeremiah. Hence his function to keep the transcribed sacred texts.
The figure of Baruch can be seen behind that of Isaias, when one enters the stairs or below Daniel, when the faithful returns from his pilgrimage. Although it is situated between two sculptures of great artistic value, Baruch does not present all requirements to be there. There is a consensus among scholars that this is a figure where the master only touched up the countenance because it shows deficiencies on its bottom – at the elbow height – with shorter arms, arising the feeling that the two blocks do not follow the proportionality found in other figures.
This disproportion is often justified by the fact that Baruch is a kind of secretary of Jeremiah; therefore, also a minor prophet. Nevertheless, it is clearly a work done at Aleijadinho’s studio, who in old age would have had the help of sculptors from his workshop. In other sculptures of the prophets, the participation of the master must have been in the top block, at breast height of the figures, with the master’s chisel evidenced especially in the faces, which contains its features. This happened with many of the life-size ceder sculptures found in the Steps of the Passion, which are in the chapels below. Thus, the gestures – which makes it a unique monument compared to other montesacros where the profets’ figures can be found – goes beyond executing the works with excessive individual stamp of beauty, at the expense of the whole. Here the set is cohesive in the placement of the phylacteries, of the mantles pleated with baroque designs, and in the iconographic license in the making of caps.
Baruch, from all the sides from which he can be admired, has a rigid, static pose, with hints of beauty only in the hemline of the short tunic and folds of the mantle. The face is immobile and all is well composed waiting for a touch of life in the beardless face, parted lips and split chin. The prominent V fold below the neck enunciates an asymmetry in the composition, which however soon becomes symmetrical again.
When viewed from below, the prospect corrects the figure to a certain extent, when moving forward on the steps. Soon, however, it cannot resist to start by the boots that rehearse a step not followed by the left knee, hidden under the short tunic. If viewed from above, from the back, the mantle drapery is harmonic because the arms and hands are little shown. When viewed from above between Obadiah and Amos sculptures, the contained gesture of Baruch bothers especially if compared to that of Obadiah with his extreme gesture turned upwards.
I predict the coming of Christ in the flesh and the last days of the world, and warn the pious. Baruch, Ch. 1.
In Latin: ADVENTUM/CHRISTI CARNE/POSSTREMAQUE/MUNDI,/TEMPORA/PRAEMONEOQUE/PIOS/BARUC.CAP.1.
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