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National Museum of Ancient Art exhibits Josefa de Óbidos masterpiece

An unpublished masterpiece by painter Josefa de Óbidos dating from 1667, sold in June at an auction in Germany, will be displayed from Friday at the National Museum of Ancient Art (MNAA) in Lisbon, was announced today.

Titled “The Reading of the Baby Jesus Sign,” the painting created by Josefa de Ayalla, known as Josefa de Óbidos, is considered “a masterpiece by the quality and rare iconography” by experts.

The coming to Portugal of small devotional painting – totally unknown to experts – comes in a particular context, which has to do with the stay of the piece in Germany, from where it would only leave for the United States within a month.

The work was sold in June for 220,000 euros at an auction in Bonn, Germany, and at the time the Portuguese State, through the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, tried to buy it for MNAA, but to no avail, because the value exceeded the financial availability for the framework.

The painting, sold through the auctioneer Plückbaum, with a bidding base of 25 thousand euros, has a size of 23 by 29 centimeters, and was made on a copper plate, showing the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus on her lap to be greeted by other women with children, while a gypsy takes her hand to read the fate.

The scene takes place during the stay of the family of Jesus in Egypt, and the association between this country and the Gypsy people was usual at the time, in collections of prints and paintings in Portugal and Spain.

The painting was purchased outside Portugal in the 1980s, but was only known when it appeared at the auction in Germany, recalled the art historian, who was a conservative of the MNAA painting collection and one of the commissioners of the latest show. from MNAA dedicated to the artist, “Josefa de Óbidos and the Invention of Portuguese Baroque” (2015).

Josefa de Óbidos was born in Seville in 1630 and died in Óbidos in 1684. He learned his trade from his father, Baltazar Gomes Figueira, with whom he worked in his workshop, and received religious education at the Santa Ana Convent, in Coimbra, between 1644 and 1646, residing in Óbidos from that year.

The painter is represented at the Louvre Museum in Paris with the painting “Mary Magdalene”, also known as “The Penitent Magdalene Consoled by Angels”, bought at an auction in New York by the Lusodescending Art Gallery Philippe Mendes, for 236 thousand euros. , and donated to the museum, where he was a curator.

Also, the Museum of Mercy of Porto has a painting by Josefa de Óbidos, “The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth and Angels”, also bought at an auction in New York, for 228 thousand euros.

Among the key paintings in the painter’s work are “Maria Madalena” and “Lactação de S. Bernardo”, in the collection of the Machado de Castro National Museum, in Coimbra, “Cordeiro Místico”, at Paço dos Duques de Bragança, in Guimarães, and “Cordeiro Pascal”, at the Frei Bartolomeu Cenacle National Museum, in Évora, which also holds some of the artist’s still lifes, as well as the pieces “Transverberation of Santa Teresa” and “Sagrada Familia” and “Calvary”.

The Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore, United States, has in its collection and in permanent exhibition the “Sacrificial Lamb”, a painting acquired in Rome, at the beginning of the twentieth century, by the founder of the institution, Henry Walters.

The National Museum of Ancient Art houses the largest collection of works by Josefa de Óbidos, 15 in total, which was included in the exhibition dedicated to the painter, four years ago, “Josefa de Óbidos and the Invention of the Portuguese Baroque”, of which Joaquim Caetano was one of the commissioners.

In 1991, the D. Luís Gallery in the Ajuda National Palace had hosted the “Josefa de Óbidos and Baroque Time” exhibition and, in 1997, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington DC, in the United States, dedicated to the artist the exhibition “Sacred and Profane: Josefa de Óbidos de Portugal”.

The first known exhibition with works by Josefa de Óbidos dates back to the late 1940s at the MNAA, with the gathering of paintings from his collection.

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