Aleijadinho bigraphy, stories - Colonial Brazil-born sculptor and architect

Aleijadinho : biography

August 29, 1738 – November 18, 1814

Church of the Third Order of St Francis in Ouro Preto. The façade is the work of Aleijadinho. Aleijadinho (b. Antônio Francisco Lisboa; 1730 or 1738 – November 18, 1814) was a Colonial Brazil-born sculptor and architect, noted for his works on and in various churches of Brazil.

Born in Vila Rica (Rich Town), whose name was later changed to Ouro Preto (Black Gold), Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1738 (sometimes said to be in 1730) he was the son of Manuel Francisco da Costa Lisboa, a Portuguese man and his African slave, Isabel. His father, a carpenter, had immigrated to Brazil where his skills were so in demand that he appears to have been elevated to the position of architect. When Antonio was young his father married and he was raised in his father’s home along with his half siblings. It was there he is presumed to have learned the fundamentals of sculpture, architecture and the combination of the two. Antonio first appears as a day laborer working on the Church of Our Lady of Carmel in the town of Ouro Preto, a church designed by his father.

St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, façade of the St Francis church of Ouro Preto. Within a very short time he had become a noted architect himself and had designed and constructed the Chapel of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi in Ouro Preto. He had also executed the carvings on the building, the most notable being a round bas-relief depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

In 1777 he began to show signs of a debilitating disease, probably leprosy or possibly scleroderma, and he received the name "o Aleijadinho", "The Little Cripple." Although disfigured and disabled, he continued sculpting with a chisel and hammer tied to his fingerless hands.

Eventually he became more and more reclusive, working mostly at night. When he did go out in public, he would be carried through the streets in a covered palanquin by his slaves/assistants.


There is some debate as to whether Aleijadinho actually existed. The theory that Aleijadinho was a myth was proposed by Augusto de Lima, Jr., who suggested that Aleijadinho was invented by Rodrigo Bretas in his book "Traços Biográficos de Antônio Francisco Lisboa". This theory relies on the notion that there were no references to Aleijadinho until this book was written.

Recently published researchDe Grammont, Guiomar 2008. "O Aleijadinho e o Aeroplano", Editora Civilização Brasileira. ISBN 978-85-200-0826-3 further challenges the traditional biography of the artist. Faced with the lack of documentary evidence, the author identifies Antônio Francisco Lisboa as a poor sculptor in 18th century Vila Rica (Ouro Preto original designation), but not a victim of the deformities that would have earned him the nickname. His work, of much smaller scope than usually attributed, had to be confined to Ouro Preto and surrounding areas where he lived all of his life. There is no evidence for his work as an architect and even his parentage is in doubt. Instead, Guiomar de Grammont proposes the figure of a talented maker of religious imagery, a trade possibly shared with other artisans in the same workshop. In her interpretation, the Aleijadinho myth was created by the Rodrigo Bretas biography and reinforced over time by modernist intellectuals who saw in this character a symbolic founder of an indigenous Brazilian culture.Gonçalves Filho, Antonio. , O Estado de São Paulo, 2008-01-04. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.

Doubts about Aleijadinho’s actual existence have been countered by evidence brought up by researcher Felicidade Patrocínio, who listed over 30 documented works, including the masterpieces on which his fame was built: the 12 apostles and the cycle of the Via Crucis at the Sanctuary of Matosinhos.Patrocínio, Felicidade. "A Presença Artística de Antônio Francisco Lisboa, o Aleijadinho". IN Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de Montes Claros. Montes Claros: Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de Montes Claros, 2007. Vol. I, online