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Brazilian Baroque

February 17, 2010

Igreja de São Francisco, Mariana, in Minas Gerais state

When you think of Baroque, you probably remember the curvy, exaggerated, passionate form of art that  blossomed in Europe since the 17th century.  You may think of Caravaggio and Bernini in Italy, or the rococo in France, or Bach and Handel in Germany. Less known but equally important was the Brazilian Baroque, that dominated the art scene in the country between the end of the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Although both literature and music incorporated baroque elements, it is in architecture that Baroque really excelled.

Most baroque churches have sober exteriors that contrast with very ornate interior decoration, including chubby angels, birds, vines and a profusion of color.  Cities that were rich at the time, thanks to diamonds, gold or sugar trade, such as Salvador, in Bahia, or Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais, could afford to use gold leaves and noble materials and to hire the best artists of the time. Among them, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho (The Crippled, a nickname given in less politically correct times), and Manoel da Costa Athaide (or Mestre Athaide).

One of Aleijadinho's masterpieces in Congonhas do Campo

Aleijadinho, the son of a Portuguese with a slave, lived in the state of Minas Gerais from 1730 until 1814. His amazing work as an architect, decorator and sculptor has a unique, dramatic style. The details and the realism of his statues, sculpted in wood or soap stone, are particularly impressive when you think of how the Aleijadinho worked: he had to attach his tools to his hands, after he lost his fingers to leprosy. Mestre Athaide was a very influential painter, known for the use of perspective and for the African traits of his angels and saints.

You can see good examples of Baroque in these cities:

Check also this amazing video, that shows one of the main Brazilian Baroque expositions ever, organized in 1998 by the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo.

Ouro Preto, also in Minas Gerais

Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco da Penitência, Rio

Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Recife

Mestre Ataíde's work at Igreja de São Francisco, Ouro Preto

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2 comments

  1. i am not fan of european baroque, but i adore brasilian one. i travelled arround minas to see aleijaidinhos works, my favorites are prophets and Igreja de São Francisco… breathtaking pieces of art


  2. I didn’t know he had lost his fingers. I think they forgot to tell me that in school, huh?



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