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Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1757-1805.
Antônio Francisco Lisboa – Steps of the Passion and The Twelve Prophets

The sanctuary was founded by the Portuguese Feliciano Mendes (dead in 1765) – as a vote of thanks for a grace bestowed – is considered the altar for art of colonial Brazil. The experience one has in the sanctuary of Congonhas, built between 1757 and 1805 according to the standards of those of the sacred mountains of northern Portugal, is like entering the world of art and the soul of Minas Gerais’ people. On the Maranhão Hill, from afar stand out, with the imperial palm trees, the Chapels of the Steps of the Passion and the all-white church against the bluish winding mountains. From the glory of the pages of Brazilian art, “our Bible carved in soapstone”, in the words of modernist poets Mario and Oswald de Andrade, that they saw the opportunity to break with the Portuguese art in favor of a legitimate expression of Brazilianity with the works of Aleijadinho who carved there with his assistants the 64 sculptures in cedar of the Stations of the Cross and the 12 prophets in soapstone.

The pilgrim starts the visit by the chapelssmall religious building; ecclesiastical nomenclature; are also called chapels any churches that are not parish churches; enclosure of a church where is a particular altar. of the Steps of the Passion at the foot of the climb for the Last Supper with the 12 apostles around the table, Christ at the center and two servants on the sides. It is the most expressive, for the position of the hands and faces that dialogue about who would betray Jesus. The first are full-body sculptures and then there are only the trunks exposed on stools. The polychromy of master Ataíde is discreet in pastel tones. The Christ and the main figures are still made by master Aleijadinho in other chapels and the artisans of his studio authored the secondary figures. Aleijadinho designed this chapel and the later ones were built to house his works (1865-1872).

The Old Testament prophets arranged in the wall of the churchyardusually closed courtyard in front or around the churches (Prophets of Congonhas and St. Francis of Ouro Preto). could be just statues, like so many others so common. However, Germain Bazin (1971, p. 186), who studied them, says they become true works of art of this artist he considers as the last of the mystic saint makers in the world. The twelve works interact with each other by means of the gestures and texts that they carry on the scrolls – phylacteriesroll of parchment with sacred texts; (filactera) small box containing biblical texts written on parchment ballots; in the Middle Ages, ribbons inscribed with the sayings of the characters, in general saints; in the Modern Age, texts of sayings of the characters in comic books. – close to the garments. They bow, gesticulate and raise their arms and hands to preach prophecies. A real ballet with feet arranged in rigid steps and expressions that raise to the heavens. Daniel and Jonah are the two sculptures made in a single block, cam out from the hands of the master, who retouched all others at the top and with ornaments and fabrics.

Before entering the temple, the gatewaylarge door framed by ornamental composition (these compositions make Aleijadinho a great master, especially in Franciscan churches of Ouro Preto and São João del Rey and in the Carmelite churches of Sabará, Ouro Preto and São João del Rey, beyond that of Congonhas). of soapstone and the trilobed oculus inaugurate the new rococoornamental style emerged in France during the reign of Louis XV (1710-1774) and characterized by the use of capricious curves, asymmetrical shapes and delicacy of decorative elements, such as stylized shells (rocailles), bonds, flowers, foliage, which tended a refined elegance; in Brazil last out neoclassicism (1816). style that would reach all other churches from the second half of the eighteenth century. The interior surprises for the pastel colors displayed across the pictorial program, from the choir with the figures of the Old Testament patriarchs to the scenes from the life of Mary and baby Jesus, still on the walls of the naveinner part of the church from the entrance to main chapel; it is called main nave when this space is divided by pillars, columns or arches. and the Passion in the main chapelmajor chapel, where is the altar of a church.. Completing the scenes of the Sacred Mount, the main altaraltar or main altarpiece of a church or chapel, positioned on the wall (St. Francis of Ouro Preto). has the crucified Jesus and, at the base of the altar, Christ deposited in the skiff veiled by an angelornamental elements commonly used in altars and arches. The little ones are the cherubim and seraphim, archangels are the largest, as teenagers or young adults (in shutters and crownings the altars of almost all churches that Aleijadinho did). on his knees. The light highlights the pastel tones of the polychromycoating work with paint or gilding of carvings, pictures, etc. with two or more colors (the master Ataide applied the polychromy to the altars and wooden sculptures of Aleijadinho). of illusionist altarpiecesornamental structure of stone or woodwork that rises on the back of the altar; generally according to the following classification: Jesuit or Mannerist (early seventeenth century); Portuguese national (1680-1720); Joanine (1720-1760); Rococo (1760-1816); and neoclassical (nineteenth century). His most important altarpiece is in the Church of St. Francis of Ouro Preto; drawings of São João del Rey and Carmo de Sabará. with ochre tints.

The sanctuary received the contributions of the great artists of the second half of the eighteenth century, such as the masters Antônio Roiz Falcato (beginning of construction), Francisco de Lima Cerqueira (built the main chapel, towers and fronton), Tomás Maya Brito (built the churchyard and main chapel) and Manuel Rodrigues Coelho; painters João Nepomuceno (nave lining and other panels) and Bernardo Pires (main chapel ceiling); the carvers Jerônimo Félix Teixeira (altarpieces of the nave and two pulpits), Manuel Rodrigues Coelho (adaptation altarpieces of the nave and images), Luís Pinheiro de Sousa and João Antunes de Carvalho (main altarpiece). There are four large angels of Francisco Vieira Servas in the main altarpiece. The sanctuary also has a Museum of Former Graces. The entire set has undergone restoration in 1957, by means of the IPHAN project known as the Reconquest of Congonhas (Machado, 1978, p. 301-160), with landscaping by Burle-Marx.

In Minas Gerais, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos gathered a group of artists, who were there in the eighteenth century to build the largest sanctuary of the colonial period in the Americas, along the lines of the Portuguese tradition, erected on top of mountains, such as in the region of Braga (Bazin, 1971, p. 223). Our sanctuary, smaller in proportion than the Portuguese one, grows in stature with the geniality of Aleijadinho, who performed there his greatest work of sculpture, already in his mature age, carving, in the words of Oswald de Andrade, “the Bible in soapstone”. Studies on iconography, by American researcher Robert Smith, revealed the similarities between the prophets of Aleijadinho and Flemish medieval paintings, as well as a fresco engraving by Raphael showing a prophet who looks like Daniel, that is in Santa Maria della Pace (Rome) – which reproduced in engraving was seen by Aleijadinho (Taveira, 1985, p 95.). It is now known that this prophet is considered the only one to have been completely carved by Aleijadinho himself. Other similarities are derived from models of the sculptures from the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Braga, carved by the Souza brothers (Bazin, 1971, p. 231).

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Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Exploring the 12 Prophets of Aleijadinho: a 3D visit

Download PDF

BAZIN, Germain Aleijadinho e a Escultura. Rio de Janeiro : Record, 1971.


COSTA, Lucio. Antonio Francisco Lisboa, o Aleijadinho. in: O universo mágico do barroco brasileiro. Emanuel Araujo (org). São Paulo : SESI,1998.


OLIVEIRA, Myriam Andrade Ribeiro. Aleijadinho : Passos e Profetas. Belo Horizonte: Editoras Itatiaia/EDUSP,1984.


MACHADO, Lourival G. Barroco Mineiro. São Paulo : Perspectiva, 1973.


TAVEIRO, Celso. O Aleijadinho em Congonhas: as hipóteses de Germain Bazin. in Barroco. Ouro Preto : UFMG, nº 13, 1985.


SILVA, Soraia Maria. Profetas em movimento. São Paulo : Edusp/Imprensa Oficial, 2001.


SMITH, Robert. Congonhas do Campo. Rio de Janeiro : AGIR, 1973,

Dictionaries

CHEVALIER, Heab e GHEERBRANT, Alain. Dicionário de Simbolos. Rio de Janeiro : Ed. José Olympio, 1990.


JENNI, E. e C. WESTERMANN. Diccionario Teológico Manual del Antiguo Testamento. Madrid : Ed. Cristandad, 1978.


SANCHÉZ, Tomás Parra. Dicionário da Bíblia. Aparecida : Editora Santuário, 1997.