naum nomeSoapstone in two blocks, 238 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil (1757-1805).


Nahum is known for his prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh, capital of Assyria. This fact is narrated with incisiveness and literary beauty, but in direct and forceful language that this fall was a work of God. He is the seventh of the Minor Prophets and lived in the seventh century BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, who also prophesied the fall of Nineveh.

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The figure of the prophet who doubted the help of God is shown on a slight imbalance. The prophets around him, especially Joel, aim for elegant body movement and head position as he stared at his neighbor out of balance, facing the churchyard. Two other unbalanced figures were made to Congonhas: one is Jeconiah for the mother church and the other is Centurion for the Stations of the Cross. The former is known, by the iconography, that the father of John the Baptist became deeply grateful to God because his wife, at an advanced age, became pregnant. The Centurion legs are crossed and his body is sharply set back. Nahum, when viewed from below, shows a marked imbalance.

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Antônio Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho (1730/38 – 1814). Prophet Nahum. Soapstone in two blocks, 218 cm (1800-1805). Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1757-1805. Photo: Percival Tirapelli.

Seen frontally, the foot leaves the base, wearing a cassock whose folds hold his step and the heavy mantle rises, taking the whole right side. On the left, there is a large loop above the inclined phylactery that seeks to hold the figure straight. With slightly dislocated shoulders, his head planted on the long and beautiful flowing beard tries to balance the picture with a cap similar to that of Habakkuk just ahead. The movement in S of the whole composition is hardly performed, like the gothic sculptures that hold the wobbly stance.

In the side and rear views, at eye level, in the churchyard, the figure shows deficiencies in the details and the disarray is quite worrisome. With the sweeping gesture of Habakkuk just ahead, this feeling that revolves around pieces of limited beauty, is compensated by the empty surroundings above the mountains. If disposed coincident with the straight lines of the columns, such as the figure of Joel, it would generate discomfort.

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In Orthodox icons, the prophet Nahum appears with the words of his prophecies, with a long beard and old face. Michelangelo painted him thus on the Sistine fresco, sitting pensively and desolate. Rembrandt painted him surrounded by light, but tired and pensive, holding his head with disheveled hair and a long white beard.

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This writing synthesizes the prophecies, rather than being a full text of Nahum’s book; this also occurs with other texts on the phylacteries.

I expose that the punishment awaits sinner Nineveh. I declare that Assyria shall be completely destroyed. Nahum, Ch. 1.

In Latin: EXPOMNO NINI/UEN MANEAT/QUAPOENA/RELAPSAM/AIOFUNDITUS/ASSYRIAM. NAHUM/C.1.

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