Jesus Looks Like a Lady: A Female Baroque Artist’s Mystical Vision

Posted by: Claire Komacek

The following is an excerpt from Joseph Nechvatal’s article that appeared on Hyperallergic

Even as she was the subject of the exhibition The Sacred and the Profane in 1997 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, I had never heard of the Counter-Reformation Baroque (and Bodegón) painter Josefa de Óbidos (1630–1684) before a trip to Lisbon. But apparently she has had something of an inferior reputation there that this exhibition at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga seeks to correct: the idea that she is an unusual and interesting oddity, but ultimately a provincial painter of trite and lugubrious spirituality. Although I do somewhat agree with the first half of the assessment, and it lends her work an uncertain charm, I am not at all in agreement with the second proposition.

Born in Seville in 1630, de Óbidos was the daughter of the accomplished painter Baltazar Gomes Figueira (1604–1674) (some of his paintings are in the show). Her father moved the family back to Portugal in 1634, his native country, where Figueira continued his career as an artist and where de Óbidos spent most of her life being educated by Augustinian nuns.

But she was hardly a backcountry bumpkin. Of aristocracy, she grew up under the tutelage of her father and had access to the works of the great masters of Flemish, Spanish, Italian, and French art through her mother’s father, an avid art collector. At 31 she emancipated herself (with parental consent), acquiring administrative independence over her life and work, which enabled her to become an artist of both secular and religious subjects. She died in Óbidos, Portugal, and was buried in the Church of Saint Peter there. She is considered to be one of the most accomplished painters of 17th-century Portugal and is especially significant because of the recognition she gained in an art period dominated by men.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.


Nechvatal, Joseph, ‘Jesus Looks Like a Lady: A Female Baroque Artist’s Mystical Vision,’ Hyperallergic, published August 21st, 2015, accessed August 31st, 2015, http://hyperallergic.com/231225/jesus-look-like-a-lady-a-female-baroque-artists-mystical-vision/.

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