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Page traduced by Fernando P. de Oliveira.

Aleijadinho, by the master Athayde.

Antonio Francisco Lisboa, the Aleijadinho (The Crippled One) is for sure the Brazilian artist from the Colonial Period best known and most studied. Nonetheless, a few aspects of his life are still obscure. For starters, his birthday is controversial. The date of August 29, 1730, written on his birth certificate does not match data found on his death certificate, indicating his demise as of November 18, 1814, at the age of 76. He was a bastard and a slave, since born out of a wedlock as the "love child" of the Portuguese architect Manoel Francisco Lisboa with one of his slave girls.

As afar as one knows, Aleijadinho's artistic upbringing was probably the responsibility of his own father, famous architect at the time,and of the draftsman/painter, Joao Gomes Batista. Little is known about his forming years as a sculptor. Some biographers  mention names such as Francisco Xavier de Brito and Jose Coelho Noronha then renowned carving artisans as his most likely mentors.

Aleijadinho enjoyed the fullness of life, a perfect health and the pleasures of a good table, in addition to the popular dances in vogue at the epoch, together with his art, until 1777.

In 1772 he joins the brotherhood of Saint Joseph and in Rio de Janeiro in 1775, he fathers a son with Narcisa Rodrigues da Conceicao, naming him Manoel Francisco Lisboa, after his own father.

The year of 1777 was a splitting year in his life, a time of illnesses. Until then his work reflected joyfulness, even some cheerfulness. After that,   especially towards the end, the artist's work becomes somber, bitter and   anguished.

In the words of city councilman for Mariana, Joaquim Jose da Silva, quoted by Rodrigo Ferreira Bretas, " so much preciousness stored in such a sick body that it must be taken everywhere and have the irons tied unto him in order to perform his work". There are receipts of expenses incurred with Aleijadinho's transfers which back up the above excerpt.

Aleijadinho - Belmonte - Book by Fernando JorgeSeveral surveys on the topic have been published, but none
conclusive.Tancredo Furtado came to this inference: "leprosy is the only possible affection to explain the mutilation (loss of the toes and some of the fingers), the deformity (atrophy and arching of the hands) plus the facial disfigurement, all of which earning him the nickname of Aleijadinho (The Crippled One).

Aleijadinho's fame and excellence of artwork reached immense renown after 1790 He had left Vila Rica around 1788. By 1779 he was summoned to Sabara, where he got commissioned for the works pertaining to the decoration, both
internal and external, of the Church of the Third Order of Carmo. For a period lasting over 20 years, Aleijadinho was sought without cease by the majority of the colonial villages in Minas Gerais, which would even fight, openly, for the artist's work, thus making his life truly a rollercoaster.

There is a considerable artistic production left by Aleijadinho, as it is evidenced in documentation kept in the archives. Receipts and its
corresponding accounting charges made in expense books are reliable historic sources, leaving no doubt about the issue. The whole artistic lot of Congonhas offers abundant material for research. The extent of the work made during 9 years in Congonhas demanded intense cooperation of assistants, much more than at any other endeavor. By the end of his days, seriously maimed due to the sickness, it would have been impossible for Aleijadinho to leave behind such a valuable aggregate amount of art without help from his artisans.

In 1796, at the peak of a victorious artistic career and regarded by his own contemporary folk as far superior to all the other artists his peers, Aleijadinho starts in Congonhas his most significant cycle in his art. In less than 10 years he produces a total of 78 statues, amidst which his greatest masterpieces.


His masterpiece par excellence, without any doubt whatsoever was Congonhas. Yet, you can find several important works by Aleijadinho also in Ouro Preto, among which we indicate: San Francis of Assisi Church; the Church of Our Lady of Carmo; Saint Joseph's Church; Cathedral of Our Lady of Pilar; the Public Fountain of Pissarrao; Governor's Palace. - Visit the links below to find more works from the Master.

Aleijadinho - UFOP    Aleijadinho - IPHAN

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* Some suppose that the image on top this page is one of the Master Aleijadinho,
in a portrayal by master Athayde, but its authenticity is questioned.

* The other image is the drawing of Aleijadinho, made by Belmonte,

taken from the book "O Aleijadinho" by Fernando Jorge - Bertrand