Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit
Soapstone in two blocks, 196 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil (1757-1805).


He lived in exile in Babylon in 597 BC. The prophet Ezekiel’s role is to welcome and call the believer to climb the stairs to encounter Christ on the Calvary, the highest point in the main altarpiece inside the sanctuary. Even being known as the prophet of the exile in Babylon, his walk is discrete, and only one foot appears. His gesture is like a calling, preaching in distant lands with prophetic, almost catastrophic, words.

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

The placement of the prophet provides a nice view to the believer. His tilted head is contemplating his prophecy with angels and animals in heaven, while his Jerusalem would be destroyed because of its luxury and for forgetting God. The inviting gesture emphasizes the hope that new believers will find the Redeemer and the resurrection that is coming. It is an invitation to hope of a new people.

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho (1730/38 – 1814). Prophet Ezekiel. Soapstone in two blocks, 196 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1757-1805. Photo: Percival Tirapelli.

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho (1730/38 – 1814). Prophet Ezekiel. Soapstone in two blocks, 196 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1757-1805. Photo: Percival Tirapelli.

He is between the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah below, and between Hosea and Joel above. Joel’s gesture is more restrained than Ezekiel’s one, but the rotation of his head is totally opposed to Ezekiel. Hosea’s profile, on the other hand, faces Daniel in such a way that the dialogue of heads and caps is based on the Baroque expression, in which contracts and antithesis are applied frequently. Thus, the light gestures, the trunk inclination and Ezekiel’s head are framed by the opposite profiles of Hosea and Joel. Both prophets above bear writers’ plumes and Ezekiel invites to believe in his words.

Frontal view

With the foot slightly retreated on the pedestal, the figure takes impulse with two curved lines: the tunic over his boot and another on the phylactery, from there emerging a long line to the hand holding the scroll. A sequence of curves in S from the mantle’s hemline and wrinkled fabrics of the tunic on his right leg creates a shadowy zone that combined with the others above, caused by the crossing of the arms, baroque attitude worthy of Bernini’s David at the Villa Borghese Gallery in Rome. Two divergent lines of great impulse, one on the body, formed by a wide crease, and another on the arm, contribute for the composition to have its climax in the slightly turned back head. The sloping face line stretches on the arm and hand that hold the phylactery, the parchment containing the biblical text. His words are wise and greatly imaginative. His perfect face is elongated, with a thin nose above his mustache that goes down on his chin, where it meets his symmetric beard. The front line of the cap enlarges the image and the front symmetry is explicit – the glowing complexion is not disturbed like that of other prophets drawn in the Turkish style, with woven fabrics.

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho (1730/38 – 1814). Prophet Ezekiel. Soapstone in two blocks, 196 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1757-1805. Photo: Percival Tirapelli.

Right side view

The movement of the faithful when climbing the steps to the next level is compatible with the sculpture that is turned towards the next staircase. The phylactery unfolds and the prophetic writings come to light. Part of the foot of the wandering prophet is shown; however, the gesture of the hands, below and above, creates opposing positions. The same happens with areas of light and shadow, especially of the elbow, creating an ambience for the leaning face.

Back view

The frontal and side views are the striking compositional traits of this figure. The artist relegates it to a solution of almost altarpiece image, without elaborating the rear view. Slight undulations on the tunic’s fabric and on the roll of scriptures animate the bottom portion. The entire body structure is stiff and the mantle fold’s weight forces the body to move, leaning lightly. On the head, the cap hood is highlighted, hiding his hair and showing the tassel. Acanthus leaves decorate the borders of the folds with organic precision, like those of the wood saints such as St. Simon Stock and St. John of the Cross on the altars of the church of Carmo in Sabará, works done when the artist was still young, as pointed out by Mario de Andrade.

Left side view

The passersby must strive to see his face because his look is already on Daniel’s figure, at the last level of the churchyard. When turning to Ezekiel, we can observe his beautiful composition, shown by the wave of the leg walking, the toecap of his boot and the more prominent knee. New pointed shapes seek the spotlights: the L-shaped mantle fold, the V-shaped elbow, thus the more closed and inverted V-shape of the visor of the flat inventive cap, beneath the crumped fabric from which comes the hood to conceal the undulating and grooved hair lines.

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Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visitIn the Renaissance of Michelangelo, in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican (1508-1512), the prophet is represented dynamically, with a twisted body and broad gestures. With one of the hands he holds the rolls of prophecy and with the other he poses questions, seen from the side. The feet contribute to determine the dynamism of this figure, which means in Hebrew God Strengthens. In the church of the Society of Jesus in Quito, Ecuador, Ezekiel is represented with a vision of the car with God ascending to the heavens by flying angels. On the ground, at his feet, scenes of violence with soldiers and a corpse being pulled.

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