(b Vila Rica [now Ouro Prêto], c.1738; d Vila Rica, 18 Nov. 1814).
Brazilian mulatto sculptor and architect, the illegitimate son of a Portuguese-born stonemason and an African slave. He was known as ‘O Aleijadinho’ (Little Cripple) because he suffered from a disease (possibly leprosy or syphilis) that from his late thirties progressively deformed his limbs and caused him to lose some of his fingers and toes (he died in pain and poverty). He is said to have worked with chisel and mallet tied to his half-paralysed hands, but in spite of his handicap he is considered the greatest sculptor as well as the greatest architect of colonial Brazil. Much of his work is in Ouro Prêto, a town that grew extremely wealthy as a gold-mining centre, but his masterpiece is the group of twelve life-size prophets (1800–5) adorning the great staircase leading to the pilgrimage church of Nosso Senhor Bom Jesus de Matozinhos at Congonhas do Campo.