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Josefa de Óbidos (1630 – 1684) was a Spanish-born, Portuguesemarker painter from the seventeenth century. Her birth name was Josefa de Ayala Figueira, but she signed her work as, "Josefa em Óbidos" or, "Josefa de Ayalla". She is one of the relatively few female European painters known to have been active in the Baroque era. All of her work was executed in Portugal, her father's native country, where she lived from the age of four.

Life and work

Josefa de Óbidos was born in Sevillemarker, Spainmarker. Her father, Baltazar Gomes Figueira, was a Portuguese painter from the village of Óbidos. He went to Seville in the 1620s to improve his painting technique and, while there, married Catarina de Ayala y Cabrera, a native Andalusianmarker, who would become the mother of Josefa. The family returned to Portugal in 1634. They first settled in Peniche, where Baltazar continued his work as a painter.

It is known that by 1644, at the age of fourteen, Josefa, was in Coimbra in the Convent of The Grace (Convento da Graça), where her father painted the main altarpiece of the church.

Josefa's first known works are engravings, executed in 1646. They demonstrate that she had achieved a high degree of skill by the age of sixteen. Sometime before 1653, she and her family left Coimbra and settled in Óbidos.

While in Óbidos, she drew an allegory of Wisdom for the Book of Rules of the University of Coimbra, which was being decorated by her father. Highly esteemed as a painter by that time, her father Baltazar is considered to be the main influence upon her. He possessed a great number of engravings among his collection that made Josefa familiar with the art of her time.

During the decades that followed, Josefa executed several religious altarpieces for churches and convents in central Portugal, as well as, paintings of portraits and still-life for private customers. Among her chief religious works are the five panels for the Saint Catherine altarpiece of the Church of the Holy Mary (Santa Maria) in Óbidos, in 1661. During 1672-1673 she painted the altarpiece of Saint Theresa of Ávila for the Carmelite Convent of Cascais. In 1679 she completed an altarpiece for the Church of the Mercy of Peniche. Her best known portrait is that of Faustino das Neves, dated c.1670, which is in the Municipal Museum of Óbidos.

Many of her still-life paintings, considered her specialty, are among other works by her that are now in the National Museum of Ancient Artmarker in (Lisbonmarker). Her work appears in several other museums and as well as in private collections.

Josefa de Óbidos died in Óbidos and was buried in the Church of Saint Peter of Óbidos. She is considered to be one of the most accomplished painters of seventeenth century Portugal and is especially significant because of the recognition she gained among the Baroque painters, an art period which was dominated by male painters.


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