The leading practitioner of Baroque and Rococo in Brazil, he was born the illegitimate son of the Portuguese architect Manoel Francisco Lisboa (fl. c.1720–before 1767) near Ouro Prêto, Brazil. The ‘little cripple’ (as O Aleijadinho means) suffered from a disease (possibly syphilis or leprosy) that gradually cost him his toes, fingers, sight, and skin. In spite of these disadvantages he succeeded in transforming traditional types of Lusitanian church-architecture by means of the most rich and imaginative applied sculptural decoration, much of it carved by himself in the soft soapstone found in abundance in the interior captaincy of Minas Gerais, where gold and diamonds were mined. The capital, Ouro Prêto, acquired numerous chapels, altars, doorways, and façades by Aleijadinho, and his masterpieces are recognized as the Churches of São Francisco de Assis (1766–94), Ouro Prêto (with twin cylindrical towers set on either side of a curved front in which is set a sumptuous carved door-case, while the interior of the Church is remarkably unified, undulating, and elegant), and Bom Jesus de Matozinhos in Congonhas do Campo near Ouro Prêto (with 12 carved figures guarding the entrance to the Church, while the rest of the ensemble is a synthesis of dramatic, powerful, and richly plastic elements, evolved over a long period from 1777 to 1805).
Bazin (1963);Brétas (1951);Kubler & Soria (1959);Norberg-Schulz (1986a);Jane Turner (1996)