Sacred Art
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Sacred Art


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381 pages

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Sacred art flourishes today in northeastern Brazil, where European and African religious traditions have intersected for centuries. Professional artists create images of both the Catholic saints and the African gods of Candomblé to meet the needs of a vast market of believers and art collectors.

Over the past decade, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla conducted intense research in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco, interviewing the artists at length, photographing their processes and products, attending Catholic and Candomblé services, and finally creating a comprehensive book, governed by a deep understanding of the artists themselves.

Beginning with Edival Rosas, who carves monumental baroque statues for churches, and ending with Francisco Santos, who paints images of the gods for Candomblé terreiros, the book displays the diversity of Brazilian artistic techniques and religious interpretations. Glassie and Shukla enhance their findings with comparisons from art and religion in the United States, Nigeria, Portugal, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, and Japan and gesture toward an encompassing theology of power and beauty that brings unity into the spiritual art of the world.

An Introduction
1. The Historical Center
2. Modern Masters of Sacred Art
3. The Sculptor's Story
4. Markets for Sacred Art
5. Ibimirim: Carvers in the Sertão
6. Maragojipinho: Sacred Clay in Bahia
7. Tracunhaém: Sacred Clay in Pernambuco
8. Painting in Olinda
9. Carving in Cachoeira
10. Return to Pelourinho
11. Saints and Orixás in Pelourinho
12. Smiths of the Sacred
13. The Painter of Orixás
14. Power and Beauty
15. Time Passes



Publié par
Date de parution 20 novembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253032065
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 32 Mo

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Edival Rosas with his statue of Nossa Senhora da Concei o in progress. Jau , 2007
Catholic Saints and Candombl Gods in Modern Brazil
Photographs and Drawings by the Authors
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2018 by Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Manufactured in China
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Glassie, Henry, author. | Shukla, Pravina, author.
Title: Sacred art : Catholic saints and Candomble gods in modern Brazil / Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla.
Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017019014 (print) | LCCN 2017018453 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253032065 (E-book) | ISBN 9780253032058 (cloth : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Christian saints in art. | Orishas in art. | Folk art-Brazil, Northeast-History-21st century.
Classification: LCC N8079.5 (print) | LCC N8079.5 .G59 2018 (ebook) | DDC 745.0981/0905-dc23
LC record available at
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
An Introduction
1 The Historical Center
2 Modern Masters of Sacred Art
3 The Sculptor s Story
4 Markets for Sacred Art
5 Ibimirim: Carvers in the Sert o
6 Maragojipinho: Sacred Clay in Bahia
7 Tracunha m: Sacred Clay in Pernambuco
8 Painting in Olinda
9 Carving in Cachoeira
10 Return to Pelourinho
11 Saints and Orix s in Pelourinho
12 Smiths of the Sacred
13 The Painter of Orix s
14 Power and Beauty
15 Time Passes
Our book is dedicated to
Divya and Bobby
and to
Edival and Izaura

Izaura Rosas with S o Roque. Salvador, 2016
A T THE END WE WALKED UP THE L ADEIRA DO C ARMO to say goodbye to Izaura. She had just finished painting a new image of S o Roque that Edival carved and a Portuguese customer wanted to buy, and she gave us a ride out to the Feira de S o Joaquim, so we could say farewell to Jorge and Samuel. We found them both in their workshops, making iron images of Ogum. After warm hugs, they all asked when we would be back. When this book is published, we answered, we ll return to give copies to all the book s artists. Projects like this, from beginning to book, always take about a decade of work.
This one began one sweet evening in Salvador when we went to hear a friend of ours, Z u Lobo, play in a caf . His voice flowed over his guitar s rhythmic complexity, and we were hit by an idea. His songs, the popular classics of the national repertory, were hymns of praise to Brazil. We had already been talking with artists in Brazil, mainly to gain information useful for comparison in projects we had going in other places, in the United States and in the Yorubaland of Nigeria. But suddenly a project in Brazil took shape. We would seek artists who created images of Brazil, paintings and sculpture that, like Z u Lobo s songs, enfold a Brazilian idea of Brazil. Brazilians love their place, a tropical country blessed by God, in the words of Pa s Tropical, one of the standards of Brazilian popular music. We find the country enticing because of its people, and we were off on a quest.
Ethnographic work of the kind we do is like photography. The informational photograph focuses clearly on its subject in context, inevitably pulling in random and productively disruptive facts, while intentionally excluding other things. Brazil is vast. To step back for a long shot and focus on the whole nation would yield a view so hazy that it would lack the fine detail the writer needs and obscure the individuals, the real people with their real names and words and works, from whom deep understanding expands. Having been around Brazil, casually learning a bit about artists and art, we chose to restrict ourselves to the Northeast.
The Northeast, poor and agricultural by contrast with the rich and industrial South, is where Native, European, and African cultures first fused into something new and Brazilian. The Northeast fits into the regional mosaic of the nation as the source of religious, musical, and artistic traditions - all of them distinctively Brazilian and some of them conspicuously African in origin - that have spread over the country to become markers of national identity. Artists in the Northeast work to meet the needs of their neighbors and they find profitable markets in the South, in Rio and S o Paulo.
In motion on the land, thankful for efficient public transportation, we came to feel that two of the states of the Northeast, Bahia and Pernambuco, offered a sufficiency of diversity, enough variety in setting, urban and rural, and enough variety in population, in race, class, gender, and age, to serve as generally representative. Those states still make a place plenty spacious; people in Bahia like to say that their state is as big as France, which it nearly is. So, our story of Brazil centers in the Northeast and our story of the Northeast centers in Bahia and Pernambuco. Such focusing and exclusion makes ethnographic endeavor feasible.
All of the art of the Northeast, the lace and pottery and sculpture, can be read as implicitly Brazilian, but we chose to focus on the explicitly Brazilian, the overtly representational. Not that we identify art with the pictorial, the representational. As everyone should, we appreciate the abstract aspect of modernism as it developed in the first half of the twentieth century. Even more we admire the art of Islam in which the possibilities of abstraction in art, in calligraphic karalama and geometrically figured textiles and ceramics, have been explored for more than a millennium. And still more we reject, as a figment of class prejudice, the division of art from craft by medium. All art requires craft; all craft holds a potential for art. Art is not to be defined universally by medium; the medium is a factor of chance: some are fated to paint, others to sweat at the forge. Nor is art defined by the eye of the beholder, the rhetoric of the auction catalog, or the fat purse of the patron. We follow Kandinsky, Leach, Coomaraswamy, and Suzuki in defining art by sincerity and passion - by the devotion of the creator. Devotion can yield, artistic action can yield, the representational or the abstract or the utilitarian, and often enough all of that at once, but looking for art that - among other things - is intended to evoke Brazil, we sought the representational.

This book s portion of Brazil
In some places, of course, in Muslim Pakistan or Protestant Appalachia, our representational focus would leave little to consider. But not in Bahia and Pernambuco. At work, we quickly recognized a distinction among the artists between sacred and quotidian representations. Our goal from the start was a book about both, but once it came our time to write, it is this simple, we had met too many people, taken too many pictures, recorded too many interviews. The artists were unsuspicious, gracious, and grateful for the attention. A few of them had been interviewed briefly before during surveys reported in handsome Brazilian publications, but we lingered and let the recorder run. We came back, came back again, and the artists thanked us for letting them say what they wanted to say. So, awash in data, we split the results, imagining a future book on the quotidian, on painting in Pelourinho, sculpture in Alto do Moura, and woodblock prints in Bezerros. Quotidian imagery will appear from time to time, providing pertinent context, but this book is centered on the sacred, a subject significantly complex since the Brazilian sacred is both European and African. That s what makes it distinctively Brazilian. There are two simultaneous and interlinked traditions of faith and creation that artists shape and reshape by transforming earthly materials into celestial images. Out of one tradition the Catholic saints appear, from the other come the African gods of Candombl . This book is about that.
Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are a married couple, both of us professional folklorists trained in anthropology, inheritors of the traditions of Boas and Synge. Together we combine ethnographic experience in the United States, and in Ireland, England, Sweden, Italy, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Japan, and Nigeria - as well as Brazil. Pravina was raised in Brazil. Portuguese was her first language, and she conducted all the interviews in Portuguese, transcribed them in Portuguese, and then we carefully translated the transcriptions into English to preserve the distinctive qualities of individual speakers. The interviews, as you will see, provide the book s foundation. Pravina s parents were born in India, she speaks the Portuguese of S o Paulo like a native, and she was always taken for Brazilian. Henry was sometimes mistaken for a ga cho from the South. His Portuguese, though, is a sort of botched Italian, useful for reading, worthless in conversation, but having completed lengthy ethnographic surveys of traditional art, one in Turkey, the other in Bangladesh, Henry possesses the intuitive confidence of an old hand in the field, knowing when to stop and stay, when to get up and go. Between us, the work went smoothly and swiftly.
Pravina had done fieldwork in Brazil in 1996, 1997, and 1998, gathering data for her research on dress and bodily adornment, but the information in this book comes from our times together in Brazil, in 2007, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2016. We did it all together, planning each day together and getting swept away together by chance encounters. As much as a project and its book can be, this one was collaborative, a thoroughly enjoyable joint venture.
Our work convinces us that material culture - culture made material, materials made art - opens an oblique but fruitful entry to religion. Written texts are never enough, even among the people of the book, and certainly not enough in religions like Hinduism and Candombl that lack a single master text - religions in which images and ritual acts, not inscribed doctrine, are basic to religious experience. Coming in through the workers who make the artifacts of the sacred, we are not distracted by the arguments of the theological elite, but settle comfortably among the majority, the common folk of faith. By not concentrating on written texts as though we were the literary critics of scripture, by not concentrating on only one of Brazil s religious traditions as most writers do, and by featuring sacred art and the words of the artists themselves, we offer a corrective to the study of religion.
That is one of our goals. Another is to describe a robust tradition of art making - not one teetering on the brink of extinction, nor one holding interest for only a tiny band of anointed experts, but robust: practiced by a great many artists, not hobbyists but working professionals, and appealing to a wide and diverse popular market. And finally, for us, it will be enough to introduce you to a few of the artists at work in Brazil today, some of them now our dear friends.
We begin in Salvador da Bahia

The Cathedral. Terreiro de Jesus, 2015

Church of the Third Order of S o Domingos, 2009

Nossa Senhora da Concei o. Church of the Third Order of S o Francisco, 2007

S o Francisco. Church of S o Francisco, 2014

Salvador, 2016

Pelourinho, 2007
S OUTH OF THE POINT CLOSEST TO A FRICA , the coast slips west, receding to break at a deep bay. There, in the middle of the sixteenth century, Salvador was established as the first capital of Brazil, the first transatlantic episcopate of the archbishopric of Lisbon. Portuguese mariners had already sailed around Africa to India and crossed the black ocean to kneel on the Brazilian shore. The wish for wealth was the wind behind them. Now Salvador, rising like Lisbon above the sea, would be a port for commerce, exporting the yield of the land - first brazilwood, the source of red dye that gave the country its name, then sugar, then tobacco, then cacao - while importing enslaved Africans to work the plantations of the fertile interior. Their descendants made Salvador the most African of Brazilian cities.
The capital shifted to Rio de Janeiro, far to the south, in the eighteenth century, but Salvador remains the largest city of the Northeast, the capital of the vast state of Bahia. A city of maybe three million, Salvador da Bahia spreads north and south of the old city along the Bay of All Saints, running down to the windy beaches of the Atlantic.
Encysted in the metropolis, the old city, called by its people Pelourinho or the Centro Hist rico, is a precious assembly of colonial architecture, a destination for tourists, a center for the maintenance and development of black consciousness, a place of constant drumming, of African snacks and weak beer, a market for art. Pelourinho, lifted to catch the sweet sea breeze, occupies two hills and the dip between them. The southern hill carries along its crest a long double plaza. The Cathedral stands above the bay at one end, the church dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi stands at the other.
Stand there; the church of the passionate saint, the Igreja de S o Francisco, presents you a face of composed rationality: a bilaterally symmetrical unit, at once double (each half mirroring the other) and triple (a nave flanked by towers). Geometric ornament, obeying the Ruskinian rule of order, reinforces the formal logic, tracing the edges of the whole and its parts. Curves surge and coil in opposition above the windows, achieving climax in the spirals that curl back and sweep up to join at the cross above the saint s statue.
The same rational pattern governs the facade of the Cathedral, built for the Jesuits a generation earlier. It also shapes the faces of the other churches in Pelourinho (as well as most of those in Brazil and many in Portugal that share their historical era). But there is an exception. To the left of the Church of Saint Francis, and also under construction during the first decade of the eighteenth century, the Church of the Third Order, the Franciscan lay brotherhood, exhibits a facade more Spanish than Portuguese, a facade so richly carved and encrusted with figurative decoration that it beguiles the eye, distracting attention from the undergrid of symmetry that the other churches raise clearly to the surface.
Return to the Church of Saint Francis and come in. The rigorous symmetry of the facade continues to control the interior, its form and ornament, but cross the entry bay beneath the loft and before you the chapels along the nave, the lateral altars, and the high altar in its deep recess burst with an exuberance of carved wood and gold leaf, a gilt, glittery, bubbling abundance in which details - the lush foliage and chubby cherubs - are lost and a golden frame is shaped for the polychromed images of saints. Female saints line on the left, male on the right. Nossa Senhora da Concei o, Our Lady of the Conception, stands in front on the left, Santo Ant nio on the right. Between them, S o Francisco embraces the Christ of the Crucifix above the altar in the middle, precisely on axis with the front door. That door opens on the midline of the facade that rises through another statue of the saint to the cross at the crest. Internally and externally, in plan and elevation, the line of the center binds it all into union.
Back inside, the golden glow of the deep interior contrasts with the cool sheen of the blue-and-white tiles revetted to the walls of the entry bay. They tell the life of Saint Francis, their people dressed in the fashion of the place and time of their creation, Lisbon in 1737. Comparable tiles carry Biblical scenes along the corridor by the sacristy. In the convent to the right of the church, around the courtyard of the cloister, tiles painted for meditation evoke virtues and wealth, life s course and inevitable end.

Church of S o Francisco, 2016
Azulejos is the Portuguese for the tiles, technically like Italian maiolica , and when Jos Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel Laureate, generously took his readers on a journey around his country, he paused to praise the azulejos that brightened ecclesiastic interiors. In Lisbon, calling the museum for azulejos a precious place, Saramago said that to understand azulejos is to understand what it means to be Portuguese. He didn t expand, but a guess would be that azulejos reveal a character both sophisticated and earthy, combining painting based on Renaissance principles with the worker s muddy labor. Nor did Saramago mention what moved us most when we were in Lisbon in 2013: the Sant Anna shop in a grim industrial neighborhood where, working to commissions from churches, a master named Maria da Gra a designs and paints suites of azulejos with sacred scenes in blue and white. The old traditions are long in the passing.

View toward the high altar. Church of S o Francisco, 2014

Saint Francis receives his mission. Azulejos , Church of S o Francisco, 2014
October fourth is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, and on that day in 2014 the crowd - more black than white, more poor than rich - came early. During the week before, a small image of the saint stood on a barrow for carrying in a corridor to the side. Today a life-sized statue stands left of the aisle that runs down the center of the nave. Some on entering, women most often, touch the stigmata on the saint s bare feet, pray, then pose beside him to have their photos snapped.
The church is full, every seat taken, men standing in the aisles to the side, and things begin with an invitation for all Franciscos and Franciscas to come forward. They do, and the congregation sings Happy Birthday, shouting Viva S o Francisco at the end. In a pleasant, familiar manner, the priest tells the story of the saint s life, how he was born rich in Italy, renounced wealth, preached to the poor, and founded the Franciscan Order and the Third Order for his lay followers; for us, we are told, he is a holy guide and the Pai da Ecologia, the Father of Ecology. Now the brothers enter, blessing the people, left and right, accompanied by the bishop who delivers a sterner sermon on the life of the saint, and everyone joins in song, requesting Saint Francis to intercede on behalf of the sick, the youth of the Northeast, and world peace.
An hour has passed. At the end of the service, the Franciscan brothers leave the church and turn right, leading the procession with a cross, a replica of the Crucifix in the chapel of San Damiano where Francis knelt to be told by the crucified Christ that he should restore the house of God. The event, pictured on the azulejos of the entry bay in his church in Salvador, set Francis on the life of poverty and service that ended with his death in 1226. Behind the cross, the procession pauses at the gate of the Church of the Third Order, gathers the image of the saint, now standing amid flowers on the shoulders of four strong men, and with a brass band following and the congregation trailing after, makes the first of the left turns in its counterclockwise march.
S o Francisco, 2014

At the gate of the Church of the Third Order

Waiting in his church

At the Cathedral

The procession for S o Francisco returns from the Cathedral

Behind the cross, his people bring S o Francisco home, 2014
The band behind the saint is playing the triumphant Battle Hymn of the Republic - Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord - when the procession emerges from a dark back street and enters the broad plaza of the Terreiro de Jesus, the Church of the Third Order of S o Domingos on their left, the Church of S o Pedro dos Cl rigos on their right, and proceeds to the Cathedral. There they stop in respect, then turn left again and enter the narrow plaza of the Cruzeiro de S o Francisco, coming jubilantly home to the church of the saint.
Another hour has passed. The statue carried on the procession, now looking backward, is taken down the aisle and placed beneath the image of Saint Anthony, the saint s Portuguese friend and follower. The statue faces the people. In chorus they respond, Saint Francis is here, three times, Saint Francis is here.
Precious objects from the altar are wrapped and boxed, the candles are snuffed, the priest has gone. A few linger in thought by the processional image, touching it softy, praying silently, stiffening to have their pictures taken.
A community in motion on the festa of Saint Francis, the procession circled the plazas, marking out the territory of the southern hill of the Centro Hist rico. From that ridge, streets roll down and converge at another open space, the wide Largo do Pelourinho that narrows as it submits to the hill s steep descent. The Largo makes a place for squads of drummers to practice, for politicians to stir the throng, for tourists to rest from bewilderment. They might be from France or Argentina, they could be elderly African Americans on tour, but they are mostly Brazilians from the south, Rio or S o Paulo, for whom Bahia fills a slot in their national vision as New England or the Appalachian South, as southern Louisiana or northern New Mexico do for North Americans - a site of deep history and authentic tradition.
The Largo s uphill wall is made by the City Museum and a big blue building, once a bank, now given to the writings of Jorge Amado, Brazil s most widely known novelist. Translated into nearly fifty languages, Amado s lively works are displayed inside. On the front steps Amado posed with Jos Saramago for a photo in 1996. Seven years after Amado s death in 2001 (and two years before his own; both men lived deep into their eighties), Saramago wrote that Amado s place is no less violent than Iberia and his characters are flesh for damnation, but there is an innocence in his storms and a portrait of Brazil in his tales of ethnic depth and diversity.

Largo do Pelourinho. Funda o Casa de Jorge Amado to the right, 2014
Jorge Amado was born in 1912, the son of a cacao planter in southern Bahia. Several of his novels, notably the popular Gabriela , are set there and they track the region s history. But for Amado, Bahia s heart beat most audibly right here, in Pelourinho. One of the novels he set here, exactly in this place, Tent of Miracles , just might be his best. Its hero, Pedro Arcanjo - the Eyes of Xang , a self-taught black folklorist who had read Franz Boas - can be imagined walking the Largo, from his work on the Terreiro de Jesus above, down to the Shoemakers Hollow at the bottom. On his walk he would pass on his right the Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Ros rio dos Pretos, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks. Amado called it the Slaves Church and used it as the setting for the central episode in Shepherds of the Night .
Built for a lay order of men and women of African descent, Pelourinho s blue Church of Our Lady of the Rosary exhibits a scaled-down version of the form of the Church of Saint Francis. Internally it is less opulent than the one Amado called the Golden Church, but it is hardly austere. Azulejos run on the walls from the entry through the nave. Their neoclassical style, more French than Italian, dates them later than the tiles of the Franciscan churches, accurately locating the construction of this church toward the end of the eighteenth century. Above us, the wooden ceiling carries a beautiful painting of Our Lady of the Rosary. She appears on the tiles of the walls and stands in a glass case above the Four Evangelists on the high altar. Even when Ros rio s church is empty, its special character is revealed by the polychromed wooden saints in the nave; half of them are black. Black, too, are the figures in the Stations of the Cross. The sound of the drums makes it clearer when the church is full.

Led by S o Benedito, the procession for Ros rio returns down the Largo, 2014
Now it is the day of her festa and Ros rio s procession, following the cross, is returning down the Largo. The tall image of Our Lady of the Rosary, standing amid flowers on the shoulders of men, turns and enters. The congregation sings Ave Maria, the drums begin, herbs dipped in water spatter blessings on all, and ladies dance up the aisle in the swinging, swimming motion of the devotees in Candombl services.
Black Catholic lay orders, irmandades like that of Ros rio dos Pretos, nurtured the development of Candombl out of African precedents early in the nineteenth century. The first places of collective worship - casas, ro as, terreiros - were built in the country nearby, and as Salvador expanded they fell well within the city s limits, conveniently connected today by the municipal bus lines.

Church of Nossa Senhora do Ros rio dos Pretos, 2015. The Carmo complex rises beyond on the skyline.
In three noble old houses, all in Salvador - Casa Branca do Engenho Velho, Il Ax Op Afonj , and Gantois - a distinct Candombl tradition took shape; it was not the only one, but the one, based in Yoruba practice, that was taken north to Pernambuco and south to Rio to become dominant in Brazil. All of Salvador s oldest terreiros sit on a hill and gather white buildings around a big barrac o , where the priestess or priest, the m e or pai de santo , has a seat, the drums beat, and the devotees circle in dance. Their performance proceeds like the zikr or sema of the Sufi, a counterclockwise ring in motion. Shifts of rhythm cue actions that acknowledge different orix s , the deities of the pantheon. Then the gods descend; there are convulsions of mystic union, changes of costume, crescendos of mimetic action, and the service concludes with hugs and feasting.
Phased dance centers the religious ceremonial, and at other times, away from the terreiro , drums awaken bodily memories and Candombl is remembered in movement. Just now Nossa Senhora do Ros rio has returned from her counterclockwise circuit of Pelourinho, and the ladies welcome her home with a familiar, habitual, implicitly sacred dance.
From the steps of Ros rio s blue church on the slant, you walk down to the Shoemakers Hollow. The road on the right leads away to a long commercial street that curves below the heights. Cross over, climb the Ladeira do Carmo, and you will pass steps on the left. They rise to the church - built in 1718 on the Rua do Passo - that served as the backdrop for a famous Brazilian film. Based on the play by Dias Gomes, first performed in 1960, the film is also titled O Pagador de Promessas (The Payer of Promises: The Keeper of Vows). It begins with the vow, then follows the man of faith as he drags a cross to town and lugs it up these steps only to be denied entry to the church because his vow was made in a Candombl terreiro . Around him characters gather, decent black folks, devious white ones, and a drama of multiple conflict unfolds, intercut with splashes of local color, spectacular dances and scenes shot in Pelourinho s Franciscan churches. At the end, the man of faith lies dead on the steps, and his body, spread on the cross, is borne by simpatico black men into the church.
Keep climbing the Ladeira and you will arrive, winded, at the open space on the brow of the northern hill, the Largo do Carmo. The street will continue, passing merrily painted houses on its way to the plaza of Santo Ant nio, but standing in the Largo do Carmo, atop the second hill, you have traversed Pelourinho. Things finish in balance. On the southern hill stand the Church and Convent of S o Francisco, with the Church of the Third Order next door. Before you on the northern hill stand the Church and Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, with the Church of the Third Order of Our Lady of Carmel next door.
Within the small compass of Pelourinho there are nine grand churches. Archival records are clearer on the foundation of the church as a social entity than they are on the erection of the church as an edifice. The Cathedral was first, founded in the same year as the city, 1549. The Church and Convent of Our Lady of Carmel were founded in 1585, the Church and Convent of Saint Francis in 1587, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks in 1685, and, in 1723, the Church of the Dominican Third Order was the last to be founded. Now as for building. Work began on the Cathedral in 1657, more than a century after its founding, and continued until 1707. That was the first. Last came the Church of the Carmelite Third Order, built between 1803 and 1855, but that late date was the consequence of the original church burning in 1788. So the dates of construction, ranging from the beginning to the end of the eighteenth century, demarcate a period of robust building (and therefore of religious zeal and abundant funding) that was not interrupted by the shift of the capital from Salvador da Bahia to Rio de Janeiro in 1763.
The Church of the Franciscan Third Order, with its fancy facade and azulejos depicting secular scenes, might be counted as a wayward cousin; the other churches belong to a close family. Within the frame of symmetry, they differently reconcile fecund curves with vertical aspiration, responding to baroque and neoclassical urges, but all are based on a single architectural type. All face the street, sharing a symmetrical facade set between towers, though the second tower on three of them remains uncapped. The doors of the towers give into corridors that provide for lateral circulation and lead to the sacristy at the back, behind the high altar. The central front door opens into the entry bay beneath a loft. Then after a cross passage the nave runs forward, and after a second passage or a truncated transept, space contracts, allowing for altars to the side of the deep chancel where the high altar rises.
Columned and arched, carved and gilt, the high altar was built, like a baldachin, as an independent, internal architectural unit. (That Brazilian practice made it possible for a golden altar to be moved from Olinda in Pernambuco to the Guggenheim in New York, where it stood tall in the spiral - and humbled the later works - during a lavish exhibition of Brazilian art in 2002.) In Salvador, the usual program for the high altar positions Our Lady centrally in a glass case above the Four Evangelists and below the Crucifix.

Church of S o Pedro dos Cl rigos, 2016

Church of the Third Order of S o Francisco, 2015

Matriz da Rua do Passo, 2014. The setting for O Pagador de Promessas

Painting on the ceiling of S o Pedro dos Cl rigos, 2007

The inevitability of death. Azulejos , Convent of S o Francisco, 2016

Santo Ant nio. Church of Nossa Senhora do Ros rio dos Pretos, 2014

Nossa Senhora do Carmo by Edival and Izaura Rosas. Sacristy, Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, 2014
Laudable concerns for historic preservation have slowed the momentum of change, but the internal decoration of the churches abides in a perpetual state of revision - these are, above all, locations for religious action. Despite alterations, though, especially during the nineteenth century, the art of the interior concentrates, now as in the beginning, at three points: the painting on the ceiling, the azulejos on the walls, and the polychromed wooden statues of saints. There are usually three saints on pedestals, in niches, or in fully developed chapels on each side of the nave, one apiece on the side altars at the front, and another, say, six on the high altar. Like as not, there are more in the nave, since new images arrive to accompany old ones over time, and there are surely others in the sacristy and probably in the corridors too. Let s say, for we have counted, a minimum of fourteen, a norm around twenty-four. The churches of Pelourinho combine into a magnificent museum of sacred sculpture, preserving works that, like the carpets on the floors of old mosques, remember the past and provide resources for future creation.
Polychromed wooden statues of saints: our prime purpose in this chapter, now at an end, has been to sketch a setting for the modern masters of carved and painted saints, Edival and Izaura Rosas. Husband and wife, they have worked for thirty-five years in Pelourinho, meeting the challenges and expectations of history in masterpieces that can be found in churches and collections, not only in Salvador, nor only in Brazil, but as well in Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the United States. Come with us, then, a few steps down the Ladeira from the Largo do Carmo.

Izaura and Edival Rosas, 2014
A CROSS THE STEEP STREET from the Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, the door is open. A tour guide says, as he herds his group past, that inside lies a workshop for the repair of old statues. Restoration is part of their mission, but the statues standing along the walls, tall and rich with color, are brand-new. This is Atelier N s, shop below, apartment above, the place of Edival and Izaura Rosas. People flash by, up and down, but one glimpse and we enter. It is January 9, 2007. Materials matter, and the first thing Edival tells us is that cedar is his wood.
At the time Edival had a place for big projects and teaching at Jau , in the country outside of Salvador. Ubiraci Tibiri a, Edival s neighbor on the Ladeira do Carmo, a gentle man and a talented painter, gave us a ride out there a month after we had met Edival. A modest house of two stories faces a big blue pool where Ubiraci and his daughter Tau ra enjoy a swim. Next to the house stands a machine shop with a gigantic bandsaw and a sleek power planer - the tools that precede the chisel in creation. An immense robotic apparatus, something like a lathe, fills the front of the shop, a pant grafo that permits the simultaneous shaping of multiple wooden copies of a master image. Edival installed the machine in 1997 and abandoned it in 2002. It made him feel, he said, like a bricklayer, not an artist, and he has allowed a thick cloud of dust to settle over its mechanized intricacy.
Beside the shop, beneath a shed, lumber is piled, massive squared blocks of pale timber. The lumber is cedar, far better, Edival says, than the oak or pine used in Europe. Cedar is good to carve; it was the medium for the magnificent works made by Native sculptors along the Northwest Coast of North America. Cedar repels termites, Edival says, and as the cedar of Lebanon used in ancient Egypt attests, it can last for millennia. His cedar, the wood in the pile, is Brazilian. It grows quickly in the Mata Atl ntica, a damp coastal region, so the fibers are mushy and soft, two weak to support grand sculpture. In the windy, dry Alto Sert o to the west, the trees grow slowly, developing natural defenses ; their wood is twisted and hard, strong but difficult to carve. Edival carefully selects wood grown between the Mata Atl ntica and the Alto Sert o, so that it will be soft enough to carve, hard enough to stand for centuries.
Carving takes place in the shade, beneath the porch of the house. Edival s work in progress is a monumental statue of Nossa Senhora da Concei o, the santa he creates most often. With him he has Ant nio Gomes, a journeyman carver who makes the pedestals for large pieces, Ant nio s son Victor, and Leandro, a lanky apprentice in training. Edival s apprentices are not paid, nor do they pay. They learn. Ten have come to him to learn, and four have left him capable of excellence.
Excellence depends on a happy conjunction of factors. Learning is one. Edival does not teach as he learned, but he has given education deep thought, and he holds that a key to successful training lies in the relationship of the master and the apprentice (for whom Edival consistently uses the word disc pulo , not aprendiz ). This is how he put it while the recorder ran:
If it is necessary to teach a student - I don t speak for all people, but, in my conception, the conclusion I have come to since I have taught is that the only valid thing that really functions is the master and disciple relationship. Day to day, it validates each of the people who are trying to follow the art of making sculpture, carving and so forth.
The result. If I am making a work and the work presents a certain degree of difficulty, what should I do? I am going to use the disciple who has had the greatest opportunity to absorb all that has been passed to him. And I will not select the one of rudimentary skill to contribute to the continuation of difficult work.
The only thing I can do is to take the most developed disciple and put him to work, and invite the others to watch their companion while he works.
And in that moment, there will be dialogue among them. They feel better when they speak among themselves than when they speak with the master. Because they feel a bit oppressed in front of the master. And they are on the same level; they are all people who are learning. And they find no difficulty in interlocution, no difficulty in communication.

Edival, Ant nio, Victor, and Leandro with Nossa Senhora da Concei o in progress, Jau , 2007
This is what I always do. I give a task to the most developed one and ask the others to go and observe. Or simultaneously, I get the others to do something similar. Simultaneously.
It is not to introduce pressure by saying, That is wrong. I cannot arrive and say, That is wrong, because if the fellow never knew, he is not wrong. He is simply ignorant. He doesn t know, so he is not wrong. He simply doesn t have the knowledge.
I don t recommend anyone to teach with notes, with a pad and pen, with theories to read and interpret.
This art, in this world, has always functioned in the relationship of master and disciple. It has only functioned like this; it has only functioned in this way.
Now we have had in our history artists who have developed alone. I am not an exception.
Characteristically striving at once for clarity and eloquence, Edival has provided a view into the system of the atelier, where - in Edival s shop now, in Verrocchio s then - artists learn more by demonstration and practice than by precept and verbal instruction, forming among themselves an interactive, hierarchical little society.
Good relations with a kind master and industrious colleagues are surely beneficial, but they are less crucial than the learner s inner qualities. In every person, Edival believes, there lies a latent artist whose expressive capacity will wilt and die among bad conditions or spring to life within the confines of a particular discipline - cooking, perhaps, dancing or sculpture. Edival was born to be a draftsman; his ability to draw proved essential to his success as a sculptor. But not everyone can draw, he says, so he starts his apprentices with the chisel, not the pen, testing them for inherent motor skills.
First they carve a straight vertical line, building in the mind and eye the foundation of the midline. It yields a statue that will stand erect, and it establishes the center from which the design unfolds. And carving the midline will teach the hand to follow the grain, to cut in accord with the fibers in the wood that run vertically. Having chiseled a line resembling an upper case I, the apprentice next chisels strokes running to the right of the midline, first like a gamma, then an F, then an E, learning how different it is to chop across the grain. Last in the sequence comes a B, requiring curving cuts that cross the grain, rise with it, then return.
If an apprentice can t do that, there s no hope, but if he can, the artist within him might become a sculptor, and next he will do what Leandro was doing when we were there. He will take a stick of cedar, orient the grain, and while looking at a model - in this case a plaster statuette of the Holy Child - he will learn to think in three dimensions, to transfer visually, chiseling wood away to shape the bulk of the form around the midline.
It will not have escaped you that such a process of design was used to create the churches of Pelourinho. In facade and plan, they mirror from a central line. That line controls the expansive reach for coherent form. A brilliant young potter in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Daniel Johnston, explained how beautiful forms result when you attend to the midline while shaping the contour of one side, which, because the pot spins as it rises, will become the form of a centered, symmetrical whole. The sculptor s form has its origin in the vertical line with its horizontal extensions in the apprentice s first test, and finds its conclusion in Edival s masterpieces that surpass the metrical symmetry of the churches in a stable, balanced dynamism.

Nossa Senhora da Concei o by Edival and Izaura Rosas. 64 cm. tall, 2009
Today Edival is working on Our Lady of the Conception. Her image made by a back country carver from Pernambuco might position her head and clasped hands precisely on the midline and spread her mantle equally to each side. In Edival s rendition, by contrast, the midline is buried. Her head tilts to one side, her hands to the other, her mantle sweeps up, swings back, and diagonal crosscurrents intersect her vertical lift.
Edival s ideas arise from within, drawn up from the deep well of memory, and he works to please himself. If he doesn t like it, he says, no one else will. The inspiration for the work at hand came from the polychromed statue on the high altar of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Concei o da Praia, down by the waterfront in Salvador. But he has no photograph, no picture before him. He has drawn no plan, has no clay model and pointing apparatus like a stonecarver. He stands before an immerse block of cedar and on its flat face he sketches with a pencil in quick sweeps. The sketch is complete enough to reveal errors of proportion.
All the details will be cut away. What matters at the beginning is the outline of the whole in which correct proportions are trapped. Edival s outline is usually the result of a freehand sketch made directly on the wood without reference to a model or drawn plan. That s his norm, and it dovetails neatly with the open commissions he usually receives.
A typical commission came in the summer of 2016, when a priest asked Edival to carve images for the high altar of a new church that would open in the Cabula neighborhood of Salvador as soon as Edival was finished. His charge was to carve a Crucifix to hang above and a statue of Nossa Senhora da Gra a to stand below. Both figures would be two meters in height, and the priest said Edival could do whatever he wanted, so long as the image of Our Lady of Grace was immediately recognizable.
Edival was seventy-eight, his back ached, and it was a blessing he said that Wilbert Flores, a carver trained in Peru, had recently come to Salvador to improve his skills. Edival gave him a room in his house in Jau , and hired him to help with the project.
The commissioned forms of Christ and Our Lady were conventional and familiar. Edival made no plans, and he immediately set to work on the wood with the capable Wilbert beside him. During the process, he said, inspirations - the resources accumulated in the mind - are important, but less important than a premonition, an inner vision of the completed piece, shaped in the mind before work begins and maintained tenaciously over the course of action. In the dialectic of creation, Edival contends that the original intention should prevail over random memories and momentary distractions.
Edival based his inner vision of Our Lady of Grace on a common neoclassical image he shared with the priest, his patron. From it, he lifted her attributes of identification: she stands straight, her arms open, her foot on a serpent, and her mantle is blue. Then he altered the image to suit himself. The cloth in neoclassical images is heavy, Edival said, the body is hidden, but he chose to make the cloth light to reveal that her weight was borne on her left leg, subtly shifting her head leftward. The neoclassical pedestal is simple, but Edival decided to loft Our Lady onto a cloud, ornamented with three heads of cherubs. With those moves, Edival drew his premonition away from the neoclassical and toward the baroque. Once complete, the image will be clearly identifiable, through its attributes, as Nossa Senhora da Gra a, and, through its mixed style, it will be clearly identifiable as the creation of Edival Rosas.
I love freedom of action, said Edival, grateful that the priest had given him no detailed instructions, had not visited Jau to check on his progress. Free action in response to an open commission - that s his usual process, but a year before, a sequence of commissions in the spring of 2015 revealed rare variations in his practice.

Edival Rosas with statues of Christ and Gra a in progress. Jau , 2016. Large images recline for carving.

Wilbert Flores carving Nossa Senhora da Gra a

Angel from Gra a s base

Christ in progress

Edival and Wilbert with Nossa Senhora da Gra a. Jau , 2016

Edival s plan for his statue of Santa Izabela and Jo o. Jau , 2015
From a church in Mucug in the Chapada Diamantina district of Bahia, Edival received a request for a statue of Saint Elizabeth - Santa Izabela - with her son John the Baptist. It is an unconventional subject, entirely new for Edival; he had no memory to activate. In the Portuguese and Brazilian repertories of Catholic imagery, Saint Anne frequently appears with her daughter, Our Lady as a child. Most usual is Sant Ana Mestra, in which Saint Anne is seated and Mary is learning to read at her mother s knee. Edival carves that image in different sizes. Less usual is an image of Saint Anne, upright and walking, leading her daughter, an image that does appear in Pelourinho on the left of the nave in the churches of S o Francisco and Ros rio dos Pretos. Edival, moved by that concept, made a full-scale drawing of Santa Izabela leading little Jo o, so the patron could approve of the design and Edival could use it to establish the outline for his grand double sculpture.
A church in Aracaju, to the north in Sergipe, requested a copy of the statue of Christ seated in meditation that rests in the church of Saint Peter in the Pra a da Piedade. Edival asked the priest, his patron, to let him gather the spirit of the original and then create a new image in his own style. The priest agreed, and Edival had a large photograph made of the statue to use for reference during his work.

Edival carving Christ in Meditation

Edival with his Christ in Meditation in progress. Jau , 2015

The Church of Bonfim, 2009
The Bonfim commission demanded a more rigid procedure. In Salvador, the city of the Savior, the Church of Senhor Bom Jesus do Bonfim is physically peripheral but emotionally central. It is the destination for an annual pilgrimage, a march of thousands dressed in white that starts at the Church of Nossa Senhora da Concei o da Praia - a long walk in a hot season; we ve done it. On the final Friday of the month, the bright eighteenth-century Church of Bonfim overflows at Mass after Mass. At the end of the service, a Crucifix is borne from the back to be touched and caressed by people along the aisle before it is set on the altar.
Edival carved that Crucifix. In fact, he carved three that are used, turn about, in the Church of Bonfim, to keep them fresh. In 2015, the church asked him to make an exact replica of the image from the high altar of Nossa Senhora da Guia to be carried in processions. Replication provides his skill an interesting test, but it cramps his imagination. He charges thirty percent of the value of the original for such jobs; the originals, being antique, are high in value.
When Edival made a replica in the past he would use a system of grids to enlarge a small photograph into a drawing the size of the original. Now it is easier; he has a photograph of the statue blown up to full size. He spreads pieces of carbon paper on a grand block of cedar, places the photo on top, and traces around the image with a pencil, leaving a faint pattern on the wood. He places a square at the bottom of the pattern to establish a stable base, sets a perpendicular stick on the blade of the square to locate the midline of the design, assuring balance, then draws a horizontal line along the square to close the outline of the whole.
Whether he draws a freehand sketch from memory, transfers from his own design, uses a photo for reference, or traces around a photograph, what Edival has is this: an imperfect outline on the flat surface of a deep timber. Now his process unifies. He sharpens and blackens the outline and sends the timber through the bandsaw, trimming it to the silhouette and leaving the depth of the block intact.
At this point, the block might remind you of a pharaonic sarcophagus, and the silhouette could suggest a frontal, symmetrical figure like those of western Africa or medieval Europe. Now he clarifies the pale sketch of the forward portions of the image, in this case the arms of Our Lady, and begins to carve as Michelangelo would, releasing the body from the block.
The beginning is the silhouette, Edival said. I take the excess off the silhouette, and I already know that what interests me is inside. So I cut - and the rest that I am seeking is in there. Cutting away, chisels discover stretches of fabric, lifelike limbs, and the swaying form of a Bahian saint.
Edival works in the heat so cracks will open that he fills with wedged slivers of wood. Humidity will cause the form to shrink tight around them. Ideally, Edival says, the figure will be carved from a single block. Form will issue from subtraction, as it must for a carver of marble, as it generally does for Edival, but his process is also additive. If a single block is not wide enough for a large work, he will plane and glue pieces to the sides during the design phase, creating a composite block in which the form will be discovered. And additions do follow. Near completion, Our Lady lacks the hands that will be carved as a unit to ensure symmetry, then cut apart and inserted in her sleeves. Hollows beneath her brow remain empty until, in a late stage, glass eyes are embedded - as they have been in Brazil since the eighteenth century - to provide a reflective flash of vitality. Edival s statue is moving toward paint.
During creation, the statue gathered qualities that were learned but can t be taught. They derive, Edival says, from evolution. A force in nature, evolution is also a force in the lives of artists, pushing them along an endless journey of learning, a constant struggle through trial and error toward unattainable perfection.

Edival drawing the outline of Nossa Senhora da Guia

Edival with the silhouette of Nossa Senhora da Guia, Jau , 2015

Nossa Senhora da Concei o. The statue pictured below, after its completion, 2014

Nossa Senhora da Concei o in progress. Jau , 2007
His conclusions are statistically congruent. Four of the ten he taught became accomplished, three made their living as artists, and Edival is certain that only forty percent of what an artist needs can be taught. The rest, most of it, depends on inherent inclinations and a long life of experience during which the artist becomes his own teacher. Edival s thought comports with the views of Agawa Norio, a master of teaware in Hagi, Japan. He said that only the easy things can be taught. The difficult things must be learned during fitful, vexing isolated practice. Though artists might be divided for scholarly convenience into the taught and the self-taught, all artists are, at last, self-taught.
Learning Alone
I have no credentials, Edival said. If you ask for the name of my school, my school is named life.
Edival s course of self-instruction simultaneously addressed three concerns: historical sources, worldly forms, and otherworldly beauty. They intertwined during his life of learning and the results of his effort fuse in his body every time chisel and cedar meet.
Never did Edival see or hear the masters from whom he learned the most. All dead, the great Brazilian sculptors of the past communicated to him directly through their works. In churches and museums he stood before them in contemplative concentration, learning with such intensity that he could extend into three dimensions the flat photos of their creations he found in books. Books and books and books and more books - the images in books (more than their texts which he often found faulty) contributed to his education. Edival learned and became able to distinguish one hundred and fifty different styles. He keeps the styles separate when he fills church commissions with statues appropriate in period and location. But he also meshes them to please himself with harmonious combinations of curvaceous and linear from.
Earlier, in the seventeenth century, the figures were blocky. Later, in the nineteenth century - through the carvers laziness, Edival said - they attenuated into blandness. But for the length of the eighteenth century, during the era of new building, the statues, like the churches, united baroque curves with neoclassical verticality. The period s trend was from the baroque toward the neoclassical. On the high altars, robust twisted columns yielded to slim shafts, fluted to stress the vertical dimension. On the statues, swirls of billowing cloth flattened to the tall, still body. But early or late in the eighteenth century, the statues, like the churches, existed in mixed vigor, merging curvaceous and linear urges, causing Edival to focus there and enabling him to choose elements from the time and join them in ways that can be rationalized as transitional but, in fact, meet the needs of his highly educated, deeply personal taste.
We are looking together at a statue he carved of Our Lady of the Conception. He points out that the clouds and cherubs at the bottom are purely baroque, but the face at the top is not fat in the cheeks but neoclassically slender. Sweeping from bottom to top, the robes balance a calm neoclassical side with a side in baroque motion. That is how he prefers it: old in the elements, new in their conjunction, and his, Edival s, in their aesthetic union.
His desire, Edival says, is to revive the baroque, which he admires for its vitality and complexity, for the challenges it offers to the talented carver. But unless he is filling a commission for a specific site, his baroque is intentionally impure. He returns to the eighteenth century, an energetic moment for Brazilian architecture and art, but his long journey back to meet the old masters has led him straight into himself. He creates, as he has said, what pleases him. His works are as much about him - about what Kandinsky called the creator s inner necessity - as they are about history or faith. Edival Rosas is an artist.
An artist. Is he the best? No, he answered modestly, but among the living carvers of saints he is the best in Bahia and one of the four best in Brazil. He has worked for it.
Customers, gauging cost against time, always ask him how long it took to craft a piece. Maybe a month, he said when he was seventy-seven, but an entire lifetime is the right answer: I am still learning.
Edival s ceaseless, self-directed study of art entered an important early phase when he was a youthful student in Minas Gerais, the state south of Bahia. He lived in Belo Horizonte, and having no interest in his schoolwork, no friends or companions, he often took the train to Ouro Preto, Sabar , and S o Jo o del Rei. For me it was an escape, a search. It was something to fill my free time, but, in reality, I was acquiring culture. On his trips, not with a guide, not by asking questions, but through direct encounters with his works, Edival learned about the sculptor Ant nio Francisco Lisboa.
Probably born in 1738, the son of a Portuguese carpenter and his slave in Minas Gerais, Lisboa was hit at the age of thirty-nine by a disease that left him deformed and gave him the name by which he is known, O Aleijadinho, The Little Cripple. Aleijadinho labored through his disabilities until his death at the age of seventy-six, and his story and works have made him, in words lifted from a recent catalog, Brazil s most famous artist, locally and internationally. Looking back, Edival describes his encounter with Aleijadinho as an experience that refined his attitudes and acts. He said:
Aleijadinho was brown - Edival s word is pardo - because his father was white and he married a mulata . For this reason he was pardo; it used to be called caboclo .
I am not white, but I do not share his genetic makeup. His genetic makeup was, let s say, fifty percent white, fifty percent brown. But his culture, the culture of Aleijadinho, was totally Portuguese, totally Portuguese.
His father was a sculptor; he died very young. He was raised by an uncle, and this uncle was the one who provided the knowledge for Aleijadinho to become the sculptor he ended up being. It is known that he was a disciple of the uncle s until the uncle s death.
When he died, Aleijadinho was forty-six years old and still a disciple of the uncle s. It was only after the death of the uncle that he became a master, that he acquired, let s say, the right to make and exhibit his work, because before that he was a disciple.
Now, as a master he was very severe. He was very rigid. And he was attacked by a disease, by a process of bone deformation, and the trauma made him harsher.
He used to hit his disciples with sticks, and he was cruel to the very people who were carrying him on a stretcher to work.
He used to beat his people; he was very rigid.
The people he beat were the slaves he owned who enabled him to continue his work as a sculptor. Edival goes on:
So, possibly because of this I don t have a special affection for him. I have much respect for the fact that he did not surrender to the disease, for the fact that he worked until his last moments in situations that were very, very depressing.
Because, really, he did not have the physical strength to finish his work, and tying tools to his wrists, he made unbelievable things. Made unbelievable things.
For example, if we make a comparison in human terms - as a person, as an artist - I probably would have reacted more than he did, and I would have quit. I probably would have.
Maybe because I am more demanding than he was.
Because he had knowledge of one line of work that was given to him. He followed that line like a train on a track.
That is, Aleijadinho was unlike Edival whose studies have taught him many styles that he can reproduce or rework into novel configurations. Edival continues:
Aleijadinho, despite everything, despite all the potential he possessed, he was a caricaturist. He worked in an exclusive line. He had one line; he made linear work.
He did not have nuances for more, for less, for this, for that. No. He was linear. It is as if he made himself into a mold, and obeying the rules of the mold, he made everything the same way.
So, there is a fact about his work that I never liked. It is the fact that he was a caricaturist.
The face, the face he made for a man, for a woman, is the same. He always made it in the same manner.
He made the nose of a person as if it were the nose of a clown, of Pinocchio, something like that. He made it in a very disproportional manner, the nose of people. And if you observe very closely, the faces of all the men that he made were the same. As if he were copying himself.
Maybe because he did not study as much as I studied.
But he was cultured, he was intelligent. He had architectural knowledge, and he had anatomical knowledge. But he applied it very badly to the anatomy of the face. Very badly. He applied anatomy very badly. This I can guarantee.
Edival s critique follows a logical course. By working along a single, habitual line, Aleijadinho became a caricaturist.
Caricature was one of the traits Gilberto Freyre used to characterize Brazilian culture. A Pernambuco man, Freyre studied with Franz Boas at Columbia. By 1933, his master s thesis had grown into a massive book, later translated as The Masters and the Slaves . In 1944, he reviewed his findings in lectures at Indiana University. From the nineteen-twenties through the forties, Freyre submitted historical facts to anthropological interpretation, seeking to find the origin of Brazilian culture in interactions among people of Portuguese, Native, and African descent on the plantation landscape of the frontier, and then to discover the consequences in contemporary social life.
One of anthropology s goals in Freyre s day was to identify the traits of national character; Ruth Benedict s book on Japan provides a case to consider. When Freyre turned to art in his writing, he fixed on caricature, arguing that the emotional distortions in Aleijadinho s work reveal him to have been one of the great caricaturists of the Brazilian past. White, black, and brilliant, Aleijadinho fit Freyre s theme - cultural creation by a mixed-blood population. Then scanning outward, Freyre proclaimed Jorge Amado to be one of the master caricaturists of the Brazilian present. Amado s most renowned predecessor among Brazilian novelists, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, was something of a caricaturist too, but he wrote about Rio s propertied elite, and, though he was black, race was not, for Machado, a central subject. Amado fit Freyre s argument better. He featured ethnic diversity and favored racial mixtures aesthetically. As a novelist, Jorge Amado resembles the Charles Dickens profiled by G. K. Chesterton: popular, sympathetic to the poor, capable of transforming the mundane into the extraordinary, and concerned, above all, with the characters he exaggerated into colorful, memorable clarity. And George Orwell, in his essay on Dickens, called him a caricaturist. Dickens, Amado, Machado, Aleijadinho - caricaturists all - take hold of reality, then distort it into engaging, artful presence.
Today Gilberto Freyre s legacy is tangled in the discourse on Brazilian racism. He acknowledged racism, but didn t prepare us for the results of recent studies that spread disturbing statistics around common sights. If the police are manhandling someone, it will be a black kid. If someone is stuck in a rotten job, it will be a black man or woman. By contrast: most of the faces on television or on the posters for political candidates are white. Freyre opened himself to future criticism by exaggerating the success of racial integration in Brazil. He hoped his country would become a model of racial harmony for the world, and, remember, he was writing at a time when German racism was gathering toward the Holocaust, and Freyre took pains to celebrate the Jewish contribution to Portuguese and Brazilian success. He spoke in the segregated United States, praising miscegenation as a progressive force when many states had laws prohibiting marriage between black and white people. He shaped optimism into description, arranging facts into structures of clarifying hyperbole for a virtuous purpose. Gilberto Freyre, that is, exemplifies his own cultural pattern; as a vigorous essayist he was an artist like those he admired: a caricaturist.
Caricature simplifies, typifies, and exaggerates. It excites, and it falsifies reality. That s Edival s complaint. He admires Aleijadinho less than others do, doesn t care much for Amado s novels. From repetition to caricature, from caricature to distortion: Aleijadinho s failing, for Edival, was specifically his falsification of anatomical actuality.
Edival Rosas takes his critical stand within a broad range of artful production that he divides into four categories: primitive (the innocently local tradition that generates conventional, simple forms); impressionistic (the predominantly subjective work that distorts or neglects reality); photorealistic (the fixation on objective facts that smothers creativity and ignores philosophical purpose); and academic (the balance of subjective and objective demands in a fusion of classical rules and creative originality).
Whatever the category, the person at work within it is, for Edival, an artist, but there are differences among artists. The caricaturist works with legitimate subjectivity in the frame of impressionism, just as abstract expressionists do. Edival positions himself elsewhere. He has no academic post, and most of those who do are, in his terms, impressionists or photorealists, not academic artists. But Edival is, and from his prospect as an academic artist - abiding by the classical rules that were set for him in the Italian Renaissance - Edival views anatomical distortion to be wrong.
During serious conversations, Edival regularly brings Aleijadinho into a contrastive pairing with Francisco das Chagas, called O Cabra, The Goat. They were contemporaries, sculptors at work in Brazil during the eighteenth century, but Aleijadinho is famous today and Chagas, Edival said, has been wronged by history. When he was born, when he died - nearly nothing is known of his life. He was black, a slave, and Edival does not call him a slave who made art, but an enslaved artist.
The three figures of Christ that Chagas carved for the Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo were lost when the church burned in 1788, but two statues remained in the Carmo complex, across the street and uphill from their atelier, when Edival and Izaura Rosas settled in Salvador. One statue, the celebrated dead Christ, was carried through the rain on procession and had to be restored by Izaura; her pious duty is monitoring the condition of the Carmo statues. The other statue, Christ in agony at the column, no longer on view, is Edival s favorite of Brazilian historical creations. Writing in 1945, Jorge Amado called the Cristo na Coluna by Chagas maravilhoso . What stuns Edival about this marvel is the accuracy of the anatomy. He said:
I spent time studying the history of Francisco das Chagas, and transported myself to his world and his period. In that period, he had no magazines, he had no information.
How was he able to make works so much more important than mine in these days, with all the information at my disposal? And how do I have so many serious problems in making my work, which he, who lived three hundred years ago, did not?
Getting the anatomy right is hard. Edival can teach his disciples the rule of thirds: one third of the body from foot to knee, one third from knee to hip, one third from hip to shoulder, with the head on top. They can get that, but it is a good thing for them, he says, that the long robes of Our Lady and the most frequently carved male saints - Anthony and Francis - will hide faults of body and posture. Images of Christ or Saint Michael or Saint Sebastian, though, expose the anatomical errors common among sculptors, and the one who aspires to be an academic artist, especially one who has taken no life classes in an academy, must commit to solitary struggle, looking through books, observing live bodies, and studying the works of masters like Francisco das Chagas.
How did Chagas manage such excellence? In answer to this own question Edival speculated. The pope granted Michelangelo the right to dissect corpses. He made anatomical drawings to guide his own creative endeavor. Perhaps those drawings, or copies of them, moved through Church channels to the churches and convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, and Chagas was shown them when he was commissioned to execute work for the Carmelite Third Order in 1757. Possibly, but it s a stretch, and Edival also imagines Chagas learning anatomy, as well as the pain in his images, by witnessing the vicious whippings of slaves at the pillory that gave Pelourinho its name.
Saintly Beauty
Hard though it is, reaching anatomical accuracy through earnest study and practice is not the end of the task. Accuracy must not be allowed to descend into photorealistic naturalism. The subjects are saints, after all, and not mere earthly creatures. Accuracy must be tempered with idealism to capture otherworldly beauty. It is telling that Edival considers Michelangelo the greatest of all sculptors and supports his opinion with the early Piet at Saint Peter s in Rome, its proportions ruled by design, the face of the Virgin youthful and beautiful with the smooth cheeks and straight nose of a Renaissance bella donna . The key to the marriage of accuracy and beauty lies in the face, the focus of Edival s critique of Aleijadinho.
The pattern of the face, Edival says, is easily taught - an oval split with a vertical midline and crossed by two horizontal lines, one in the middle for the eyes, another lower for the mouth - but what truly matters is unteachable. Only through action and a surrender to the unconscious will an artist be able to bring from within a face that is saintly :
The one who makes sacred art, who makes the face of the image, he does not know how to tell you to make it. Neither do I, neither does anyone.
You have to learn how to feel it.
I can teach you how to make a face in four lessons; in four lessons you know how to make a face. Now: to give expression to that face, you will have to take that out of your interior.
Starting at the beginning: the face of the saint is incredible. The saint does not look like a person you know. But another sculptor makes the face of another saint that does not look like anyone you know. But it also does not look like the work I make.
These are mysteries that are, like, in the ether, in space, in time that you cannot teach. You can only feel.
Working with sacred art, the hardest thing to do is to copy the face of another image comparable with the one you are making. Do you understand how it is?
Because our feelings are not comparable. So the tracks that I make are not the same as the tracks the other made.
Three days later, Edival returned to this topic when he was describing images of Christ:
The face of Christ is always a Christ, and continues to appear like a saint. Christ is not your neighbor. He is not your driver, not your teacher, nor your student. Do you understand? He is Christ.
Now, I don t understand this, but I do understand what happens with me. The saintly face of the image simply happens because it is my intention to make a saint.
And the rest is left to the unconscious.
I understand that, in teaching a student, I will teach him to make a face. Now, to teach a student to give expression to the face - that is another problem. I don t know if a method exists to teach that. There might be an ancillary method, but to make it in a natural, spontaneous manner. No. That does not exist.
Saintly faces in progress

Concei o, 2007

Christ, 2015

Gra a, 2016

Christ, 2016
Of particular importance in places where holy figures are clothed in depiction, the saintly face is one aspect of the suavely serene beauty found widely in the world s spiritual art. During his masterful analysis of the wooden sculpture of the Yoruba people of West Africa, Robert Farris Thompson gave the name ephebism to the healthy, youthful beauty of spiritual figures. Such timeless, ephebic beauty is an aim of the sculptors of Hindu images, of murtis , in South Asia. They use beauty to entice the deity into the image, then to attract devotees to the image and pull them through it into contact with the divine, so that deals can be struck between the worlds - vows can be traded for boons. An exchange of that sort set things in motion in O Pagador de Promessas , the film shot down the street from Edival s atelier.
Put simply, Edival said, the statue s beauty functions to attract people into worship so they can ask a saint for help. It didn t work for him, though. The saint s beauty attracted him to art, not religion. I am a sculptor, he said, not a santeiro - not a maker of saints. And he said, My religion is to respect the people who respect me. Precise thought, only, is my religion. His faith is ethical and rational, not orthodox or mystical. Still, when we asked him to generalize about the nature of sacred art, he responded with an account of the image s role in the expansion of Catholicism:
What is the image, what is sacred art, why the saintliness? I will tell you - in the temple, in the church; I will remove all the other environments, and I will put it inside the church.
Why were they golden? Why were they painted, beautiful, lovely? Why? Why did they have that angelic appearance? Why? It is the following:
The Catholic Church, even though it allowed itself to commit atrocities in the history of humankind, burning heretics and so on. Despite its errors, it offered an improved quality of life; it got it right more often than it got it wrong. It is exactly like a human being; it got it right much more often.
What did the Catholic Church do? The Catholic Church came in all the Portuguese and Spanish vessels, exploring the world. And transported with the captains in all of these ships there were highly intelligent priests. And what they did, they were not only interested in taking from others. It was in their power to take from others, but they had to offer something, and this is what they did.
In each place they arrived in the world, they would bring their culture. They were offering their culture. They were taking from the Occident, let us say, to the Orient, this sacred art, the religious art of the Catholic Church.
Pause to note that in making the Orient, not Brazil, the destination, Edival is aligning with the Portuguese national epic, The Luciads , published by the poet Luis Vaz de Cam es in 1572. Though Brazil was explored and developed in his lifetime, Cam es looked to the East, where he had been - to China as well as Goa - and he mentions Brazil only briefly. The story in The Luciads threads through a baroque exuberance of classical allusions, epic conventions, historical digressions, and religious opinions; it rolls through storms and sickness and treachery to tell how Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to land in India in 1498, the first mariner to do so. Cam es produced a Counter-Reformation text. Little Portugal was given this victory because it would hold to the old faith in schismatic times and Christ s true law could spread in the East. It is a mercantile tale as well. Newly arrived in India, this coveted land of riches, Captain da Gama attempts to establish an international trade agreement, then escapes with a cargo of spices, returning to Portugal after he and his men have been rewarded by Venus with a sojourn among naked nymphs on a mystical isle. If getting to rich India was the aim, Vasco da Gama found a better route than Columbus did. But Edival Rosas is composing a less heroic, more comprehensive account of maritime adventuring, centered on sacred art. The pause is over, and we return to him, letting Edival continue and conclude:
So, they offered their culture, their knowledge - the painting and sculpture and lace - to the Orient. They were donating their knowledge to the people, but in exchange they were sucking in the techniques and knowledge of the others. It was like this: in the mercantile process an exchange was accomplished between people.
And it follows that in Goa, in India, the Portuguese left a profound mark in the history, where until today they have made sacred art in ivory, in Goa.
The result, I am saying, is that this work of theirs was an endless process of teaching and learning.
So, for them to inspire the awe of the faithful in the churches, they had to make the churches sumptuous, beautiful - architecturally well-sited and beautiful.
Inside these churches, they put beautiful altars, beautiful images. It was to trap the people s vision with beauty. Like it was with me when I was a child, when I prostrated myself in front of the image and asked, My God, who is capable of making such work?
This was the main reason for the making of sacred art. It is to produce the effect of attraction on the human being, on the human being.
Beauty traps vision; vision is a gateway to the mind. The trap, in Edival s telling, was set for political and commercial as well as religious reasons, and the trapped vision opened a channel for the gift of culture, for religious messages and artistic styles. The artful image is beautiful in its architectural setting and in its angelic appearance, the sculptural form that Edival creates and that we have treated up to this point. The image is also golden, beautifully painted. Painting is the task of Edival s wife, Izaura, and she comes next.
Thinking of Izaura, Edival said, Two things keep me going: my new projects and my wife.
She is an artist too, but she also has a mind for commerce. She does things I can t do. I can make things but I can t manage the business like she can.
She is more dynamic. I live like a poet. If we were to separate, she would stumble and keep going. I couldn t go on. I would be at an end.
With his marriage, a close and affectionate bond, Edival exemplifies a pattern we have found in Japan and the United States as well as Brazil. Artists are supported by spouses with a mind for planning and commerce. In American country music, for instance, Louise Scruggs managed things for her husband, the musician Earl, and Bud Reed managed things for his wife, the musician Ola Belle. There s a pattern, too, in Edival s opening comment. Izaura is also an artist. They are a team in creation; she paints what he shapes, and Brazil has many such duos.
Edival accepts that three carvers in Brazil are his equals, and in southern Bahia Osmundo Texeira is also a great shaper of sacred form, though he works in clay, which Edival calls an easier medium, but no one else matches the quality of the polychromatic painting produced by Edival and Izaura Rosas. Their painting, Edival says, is unlike Portugal s; it is theirs and Izaura is the master:
This manner of polychromy that we do on the image, it is Bahia s own.
We are the exclusive owners of this manner of polychromy in the world!
What is gratifying is that Senhora Izaura has absorbed it very well. She has her own role. I didn t have to take her hand and show her how. I explained a few things, and today she walks on her own feet.

Izaura Rosas, 2015
I can guarantee that she is better than I am today. At least - he says with a laugh - I am much lazier.
Izaura s Work
I was born in Cear , Izaura said when the recorder was running. I was raised in Cear . And I came here, pregnant with my first child, after I had married him. I did absolutely nothing; I just took care of the house.
So, when we came here, after I had my first child, after some six or seven years, I saw that suffering of his. He made sculpture and he painted.
So then, I sat next to him and said, Edival, I am going to paint. I am going to learn to paint. He said, How, Izaura, if you don t even know how to make an O?
I said, I m going to paint. I sat next to him. I took all kinds of paper - cardboard, newspaper, pieces of paper, and I started making sketches of the images he was making.
Three months later, I started helping him. He was already feeling relieved. The customers would come to him, and he was in a rush to finish painting the image. He made the sculptures and finished them. So when I started painting, he was relieved.
Izaura painting S o Miguel, 2009

So three months later I had already begun, was already painting for the customers. After one year, I started improving. And after one year, I was painting well. And I continued. Today I paint without needing to.
I do this as if, as if it were my life.
I paint the image as if I were holding a child on my lap, nursing it.
So, I like my work very much. I thank God every moment for having learned, for having him - Edival - next to me. For, if he were not next to me, I would not have learned.
God first, then him. And so I learned.
Today he does not have to tell me, Izaura, do it this way, that s wrong. Today he doesn t have to, because I continued, and today he only paints if he must.
Now, there are times when I have to work on an image that I m not used to painting, and he has to tell me the colors of the paint. When I say, Edival, I don t know the colors of the paint, he says, It is like this and this.
So even after I have learned, I feel that I still have to learn, and that I need him next to me. There are things that I still don t know. And he studied.
I did not study to be able to learn. I learned on the farm - by working - because I said I would learn.
Once Izaura carved and painted a saint, then sold it to a hairdresser who sold it to a collector in Rio. But only once; painting is her work and when she does it, she says, she forgets time and it passes pleasantly. The women who weave carpets in Turkish villages say the same thing: their work is good because, sitting at the loom, their minds and hands busy, they forget time; it passes without being wasted. For them there is a beautiful carpet at the end; for Izaura it is a beautiful saint.
Izaura s gift to beauty, the saint s finish, entails two tasks: the glass eyes and the painting. Edival inserts the eyes of the largest statues before painting begins, but the eyes are Izaura s responsibility for most of the images, and frequently, though not always, she paints the body before the eyes are set in the face. There is no rule of sequence; we ll take the eyes first.
The largest eyes come from Rio, but Izaura makes the smaller ones by melting a dot of black glass onto a white glass rosary bead. It was customary, she said, to wear rosaries as necklaces in Cear , and once when she went home for a visit, her father asked where her rosary was. Scattered into the faces of saints, she replied.

S o Francisco, carved by Edival, finished by Izaura. One eye emplaced, then gessoed and the eyes opened, 2015
The process, Izaura said, was tedious in the past. The head was split, the face removed, and holes for the eyes were excavated from the rear. Today she follows Edival s simplified method. She gouges deep holes beside the nose and fills them with a mix of gesso and slow-drying glue - slow-drying so she has time to adjust the positions of the glass beads she presses into the holes. Once the glue has set, she rolls tiny coils of her mixture, shapes the lower lids, then the overlapping upper lids. With the eyes perfectly placed and shaped, she coats the face with gesso, eyes and all. After it dries, she opens the eyes, scraping the gesso off the slick, shiny eyeballs, and the face is ready to join in the general process of painting, maybe already begun, maybe now to start.
So, carving is done. Edival gives Izaura the raw piece and she begins by sanding it to prepare for the gesso. Edival once read in a scholarly treatise that carved figures were dipped in a vat of gesso, as a potter would do in glazing. The misinformation enraged him and he said that if you want to fish in a lake - he and Izaura enjoy fishing - you ask a local fisherman where the fish are biting, and if you want to know about the making of art, ask a working artist. The gesso was applied in the past, Edival insists, just as Izaura does it today.
Izaura mixes powdered plaster with glue and water to the consistency of buttermilk, then applies it - she says passes it - carefully, smoothly in long strokes with a watercolor brush. The gesso dries in forty or fifty minutes; then she sands the surface to remove small bumps, and repeats the passing and sanding and drying routine three or four more times. When the final coat is dry, she gives the piece a last smoothing with superfine sandpaper.
Gesso makes the foundation for an aesthetic preference shared by many Brazilian artists. It fills the tiny pits and slits along the grain to achieve a perfectly smooth surface. Though cedar is not extreme in this respect, the natural tones of wood vary and they are apt to shadow through paint in darker and lighter passages. Gesso prevents that, assuring the purity of applied colors at the surface. And, being white, the gesso provides a reflective undercoat that brightens the colors above it. The gesso, that is, eliminates the texture and tone of the surface beneath it. Some artists want their materials to show and for signs of their tools and hands in motion to remain, relaying their process to the eye. Call to mind the late works of Michelangelo, the dripped paintings of Jackson Pollock, or the Japanese teabowl that features gritty clay, the tracks of the potter s fingers, and flashes of fire from the kiln. Izaura s gesso erases the wood and the manner of its crafting; it banishes nature and time, preparing for the supernatural. In Brazil, and in India too, it is today as Umberto Eco says it was in medieval Europe: smooth, luminous, brightly colored surfaces signal the spiritual. The contrast is clear with the rough textures of hasty action and the matte, muted hues of naturalism.
Gold brightens the ornament in the churches, gleaming on the high altars, and gold brightens the garments of the saints. For Edival and Izaura, true polychromy requires gold, and Izaura begins the painting process by preparing for it. The traditional practice is to coat the saint s robe in gold, but that is wasteful, for most of it will be covered by paint, and many artists have come to their shop to learn the process devised by Edival and Izaura. We are the ones, she said, that discovered this technique of placing the gold only on the parts where we will make the flowers, the drawings.
Where the gold will appear, Izaura applies a rust-red primer made of boro (bole in English). Boro is an important material, she said. It is a type of clay, Armenian clay. It is used to give a better shine to the gold, and also for the color of gold. The boro is red. If you apply the gold on top of the white gesso, it will not have that beautiful yellow tone.
Images of Santo Ant nio. Carved by Edival, finished by Izaura

Gesso, boro , gold leaf, eyes emplaced, 2015

Gesso, boro , eyeless, 2009

Finished, 2014
Images of Sant Ana Mestra. Carved by Edival, finished by Izaura

Painting begun, eyes in place, 2007

Gesso, boro , 2009

Finished, 2015
Their gold leaf comes from Portugal in sheets measuring five by five centimeters. Izaura heats rabbit-skin glue to a liquid, then applies it over the boro . She cuts the gold leaf to size, picks it up with tweezers, lays it over the boro , waits ten minutes, and burnishes it with a tool the size of a pen that ends in a little horn of agate. It is the agate that gives it the shine, she says. It takes away all the inconsistencies. The gold is bright and smooth.
Izaura uses water-based paint bought from a hardware store. Her palette is centered by dominant canonical colors, but room aplenty remains for inventive combinations. She refers to the various images of Our Lady in the usual familiar way when she says, Almost all images of Concei o have red. Edival adds and blue from across the shop, and she goes on. Socorro does not have red. Carmo does not have red. Aparecida does not have red. Santa B rbara has red. Ros rio has red. Concei o has red. Amparo has red. With many images, I modify the colors.
When she paints Socorro, Our Lady of Aid, who has no red, Izaura applies the blue, carefully cutting along the gold with a fine watercolor brush to shape cruciform floral designs and ornate borders for the robe. When the blue is dry, she uses white to expand around the gold. By the next day she has patterned white over the blue field to create a neoclassical look that echoes the decoration in the church of the Carmelite Third Order across the street.
In the final stage of painting, the spiritual is tempered with the historical for the same reason that anatomical accuracy was tempered with idealized beauty during carving. These are saints, destined for settings of worship. At work in modern times, Edival s respect for classical rules bids him to attend closely to the masterpieces of the past. If art, not fashion, is the goal, the desire is not for change, not for the merely new, but for a participatory role in the ongoing evolution of excellence. Edival looks back to be sure that nothing of value has been abandoned, and he and Izaura create for a particular context: old churches where an image that departed radically from precedent, or broke arrogantly out of its surround with gaudy color, would be disruptively wrong. Their pleasure is to craft statues that belong comfortably, politely within environments that are simultaneously historical, artful, and sacred.
Izaura describes the last act: After the piece is finished, we use an ageing agent to muffle the colors. The ageing is accomplished with wax, gasoline, and Neutrol. This last is a wood stain containing betume (bitumen) that serves to darken the color. It is mixed with wax that prevents the piece from drying and gasoline that repels termites. She goes on:
Izaura painting Nossa Senhora do Socorro, 2014

Nossa Senhora da Concei o by Edival and Izaura Rosas, 2014

Nossa Senhora do Socorro in progress, 2014
We apply the ageing agent with a brush on the entire image. We apply it with a brush, and with another brush we take off the excess, so the piece will not become black, and you would lose the work at the end. Right?
But it takes much time to be able to do this. Much time.
There are people who use pure betume . If betume touches the piece, you lose all its beauty. Because betume is black. If you don t know how to use the betume , you could lose the piece after it is done.
That can be seen on new Brazilian carvings painted less carefully than Izaura s. To suggest the gold leaf of polychromy, statues can be touched with gold paint then rubbed, and to give them a look of age, bright colors might be smeared over with black, rather than lightly coated with an ageing agent that subtly darkens the whole. Izaura continues:
So, there are artists who come here, artists who make works, who paint, who ask, Dona Izaura, what do you do to leave the face with porcelain skin?
If I want to leave the piece newer looking, I can. If I want to leave it older looking, I can.
The original pieces, the older ones, when they age, they lose the color of the face. They become white. So, when I started painting, I would make the face white. But then Edival said, Izaura, make it more or less the color of skin. And I learned to do that.
To make the face white would be to make a reproduction. To get the skin tone right, varying as Brazilian faces do from dark to light, and then to apply the ageing agent is to create a modern work fit for a historical setting. To be clear: there is no faking, no antiquing. The form is complete and sharp. The colors are not abraded or faded, but bold, mellowed a touch, but scarlet and azure, white and gold, altogether strong.
At the very end, Izaura buffs the piece with cheap talcum powder to kill the gasoline s odor and brighten the gleaming gold. Metalwork might follow, an order, accompanied by the materials and a sketch, for a silversmith to fashion a crown for Our Lady, a resplendor for Sant Ana or Santo Ant nio. But Izaura s work is done. Edival s statue is finished.

Edival carving at seventy-eight. Jau , 2016
W HEN WE MET E DIVAL R OSAS in 2007, the quality of his work and the richness of his answers to our questions suggested to us that his life history should be recorded. He wasn t interested; he planned to write his own book about sacred art. We weren t looking for work; both of us had other books in progress at the time, and we let the topic drop. When we returned in 2009, Izaura thought that recording his life would be a good idea, but, though Edival continued to answer all our questions patiently and completely, he still planned to do his own writing. The traditions of the Northeast would be his subject; the life of the outlaw Lampi o interests him deeply.
Things had changed when we arrived in 2014. Edival had released the men who helped him in the workshop at Jau . I let them go, he said, and now each has to seek to make a living on his own, and to make his own private work. To develop so they can be themselves, walking on their own feet.
And today I am alone. I am alone, and I like it. Because I am very dedicated to making work for churches. I make one piece. I make another.
I dispensed with everyone; I let them go.
It is quiet and restful out there in Jau . Edival rises early and carves into the afternoon. Then he walks into town for lunch and dominoes, resting his brain from work. After a light supper and the news on television, he has at last the time to write he has always wanted. When we showed up again, he had recently published eleven poems in an anthology, Colet nia Po tica 13, and a police novel Abaet : O Predestinado , the story of a poor boy from the favela who becomes a rich drug lord and repeatedly outwits the authorities. We went with Edival, Izaura, and Izaura s witty sister Francisca to the launch of the novel in Feira de Santana, a city to the northwest that calls itself the Portal do Sert o. It was disappointing, a dark day of heavy rain. The audience was small, Edival was only one of several authors featured, and his address was brief. But Edival is now an author, proud to be a success in different arts at once, and saying that the fame of an artist rests on his work, not on what he writes about it, he told us he was now ready to have his life recorded, fully at our disposal. On September 25, 2014, we recorded the first of four long interviews, and this is how he began:

Pravina interviewing Edival in his shop. Pelourinho, 2014
My parents were peasants. I was born on the Sabonete ranch, near the village of V rzea da Concei o in the municipality of Cedro in Cear .
Like many whose life histories we have recorded, Edival skipped the date and located his birth with precision in space. For the record: Edival Pereira Rosas was born on August 5, 1937, on a fazenda in the northern state of Cear . His mother taught Edival and his three brothers to read and write at home. Regular readers of news magazines, they knew about the world when they entered school, and school never held much interest for Edival. All authority galls him. He continues:
My parents were devoted Catholics, fervently devoted. And they would take us to church, to attend Mass.
And with me, quickly from the beginning, starting at nine years old, I was already feeling a strange current of energy flowing inside me. Because while the others were preparing to pray for this, for that, I would choose an image and situate myself in front of that image.
And from a distance my parents imagined in me a high degree of religiosity. But I was asking, My God, what kind of man makes work like this? How does he behave? Is he a normal person, like my father, like the father of my cousins?
Because that was the kind of hypothesis that I could make. But the question remained, framed with more precision: My God, what kind of man is this who is capable of making uncultured men, criminal men, unserious men submit themselves reverently before an image that an artist made?
I didn t speak in this way, with the vocabulary and language that I use today, but my sentiment was carried in this proposition.
In church, the power of art trapped his young mind. Without a pause, implying an inherent inclination, he says:
Now, another factor is that I was born a draftsman; I was born a draftsman. On the path from my house to the school, people always painted their houses white, and, with charcoal, I would draw on the houses of these people. Many problems arose between my parents and the owners of these houses, but I never stopped drawing on people s houses. Let us say I was like a painter of graffiti, abnormal for the time; I would do it with charcoal.
And soon I learned that one needs great perspicacity to draw the heads of animals - like to be able to draw the head of a horse, a mule, a donkey. Understand? So, they are of the same family; the head, the ears are of the same family, but they have natural differences.
So, I would draw the head of a horse, of a mule, and of a donkey. So, this kept improving my way of knowing how to work with things. But it was, in an unconscious manner, an eruption of ego.
When I was twelve years old, I made an oil painting in our house, the house on the ranch. And a long time later, my father sold the ranch. And thirty years later, I learned that the owner of the ranch, the new owner, was restoring the house, and he said they would restore the entire house, except for the place where I had made the picture.

Edival Rosas, 2014
So, I was not conscious of what I was doing, but I left a historical mark that is probably still found in that location.
The painting showed a family, assembled people: a family. I wanted to make something like those prehistoric people in caves; do you understand? They made drawings. They left marks; they left marks of their existence. I don t know if I knew that history; I simply wanted to leave a historical mark. There was a family, my family. It was not a portrait of certain persons; it was a family. That s it.
Traveling and Learning
Edival has begun. Born a draftsman, he diligently strove to limn the difference between a horse s head and a mule s. He was exhilarated by the art he encountered in church. Out of ego, he was eager to leave his scratch on the face of history. He would be an artist, but first he had to make a living. Farming was hard in the dangerous dry zone where he was born. His parents advised their sons: You have to prepare yourselves to make a living without depending on the rain.
The rain: that parental advice connects Edival s story to a great theme of the Northeast, anticipated in local-color fiction and set by Euclides da Cunha in Os Sert es in 1902. Writing in protest, Cunha chronicles the four campaigns mounted by the professional army of the new Brazilian republic, in 1897, to destroy Canudos, a community of impoverished, messianic rebels in the back country of northern Bahia. In advance of his narrative, Cunha sketched the Sert o, the land beyond the lush coast: a sterile, desert-like place of low scrub and spectral trees, of long melancholy horizons, of blue skies and heat. With sudden rain, the land flashes green. Then, sign by bitter sign, the drought returns, the earth dries and cracks, the cattle die, the bats swarm, and even the brave man considers flight. You can t depend on the rain, they said.
Novelists and journalists, historians and social scientists have followed Euclides da Cunha in documenting the droughts that have brought death to many thousands and driven many thousands more - the retirantes - into exile, scattered in the hunt for paying work.
Edival was one of them. He began his wandering as a teenager, going first to Juazeiro do Norte, Padre C cero s city in southern Cear , where there were factories, better chances for labor and education. Edival made shoes, worked as a mason, and apprenticed himself to a goldsmith, as many of the great artists of the Italian Renaissance did. He learned to work with metal and stones, and an interest in minerals took him south to Minas Gerais, where he examined Aleijadinho s works, spent unhappy time in school, and became a specialist in soils for a mining company. Employment with the company brought him back to Cear , where in the city of Canind , in 1968, the first of the three encounters that would make him a great sculptor took place. He says:
In the city of Canind , in a little bar, I met a man, a bohemian, who played the guitar. I really liked music, and I went there and became acquainted with the man.
When they told me he was a sculptor, I asked if he would permit me to visit his atelier on the following day. He said yes. His name is Deocl cio Soares de Niz, called Bibi. And on the next day I arrived at Bibi s house, presented myself, and he showed me what he did.
It was sacred sculpture, but it was primary. It was primary. That means that he had not studied. He simply did his work in a hereditary way. He worked like his whole family had worked. He came from a lineage, a family of sacred sculptors.
The entire family worked with sacred art. But they all belonged to a school of primary work. They did not have anatomical knowledge. They did not have historical knowledge. They knew how to make the saint, but they could not say three words about their work, about what they had just made. This I understood very rapidly - that they did not have this culture. They did not have this culture, but Bibi was - not was, he is an excellent artist.
And I asked him to permit me to become his disciple. I want to be your disciple.
And he said, But, Doctor, I make this to survive. And in your case, Senhor, you earn much money. I make this to survive.
I said, Please give me the opportunity; this is what I want. Then after much insisting, he accepted me as a disciple. And I remained working with him, doing work for him, doing menial labor. I did whatever; I did all of it, and I obeyed the rules of his tradition.
Only: eight months later I had already absorbed everything that I could absorb in that environment. Eight months later. He had nothing else to teach me because now what interested me was not learning how to sculpt. It was to know the history, to know the rules, the standards, and it would not be there. It would not be with him anymore.
I left the mining company. I left, left the mining company, and I only said, Goodbye. And it was over. And I went to make sacred art.
From Cear , Edival went south to Rio de Janeiro and learned to make the clay models for statues cast in bronze. Today, Edival said, I can make statues in bronze, which I have no interest whatsoever in doing. I discovered quickly that in the making of bronze statues who got the money was not me. It was the company. I made the model; they made the statue and took the money. Out of vanity, he says, because he wanted to be an artist and hated working under a boss, he left Rio, returned to Cear , and met Izaura. He was thirty-three, a widower with two children. She was nineteen. After a chaste courtship, they married, and, late in 1969, moved to Feira de Santana in the state of Bahia:
I came to Bahia to do research on sacred art. I came to Bahia because Bahia possesses the largest sacred collection in Latin America. In churches, in museums. Having innumerable churches, Bahia possesses the largest collection of sacred art in Latin America. Salvador possesses it; nobody has as much sacred art as Salvador. No, no, no, no, nobody does.
So it follows that I came here to do research on sacred art.
When I arrived here in Bahia, I met a priest in Feira de Santana in nineteen seventy. His name was Aderbal Sabac de Miranda. This man was the force of my evolution. He did not teach me. He was doing something else.
One time I sculpted a work and took it for him to see. I asked him to make an analysis and to be honest with me, telling me if it was good, how it was.
He looked at the image for an hour, an hour and a half, more or less. After all of this, he said, Look, you almost made a good thing, but you have the capacity to make much better things. On this day, I didn t get irritated with him. Because it was the first time that I was showing work to him. And I continued to show it.
A long time later, when I knew that I was making things that were much, much better - that means indebted to this demanding man - I showed him the work.
He looked at it and said, Look, you are almost making what I would like to see you make. But you still have not made it. You can make better things. I left his house, saying to myself, I will never return to show anything to this hypocritical, demanding priest. But I did.
In that moment I was not aware that all he was doing was guiding me, propelling me in the direction of making the best that I was capable of in life. I came to discover this truly when he passed away.
When I lost this important figure who encouraged me - he did not teach me to make sculpture, he compelled me to do research, to seek through history, to seek the knowledge that would enable me to do my best.
When I lost him in nineteen seventy-eight, I said I have nothing left to do here - in Feira de Santana - I will go to Salvador. I will go to conduct my investigations in churches and museums.
In 1979, Edival and Izaura moved to Salvador, where at first Edival concentrated his study in the Museu de Arte Sacra. He recalls:
Let me say that in the Museum of Sacred Art in Salvador, when I was interested in knowing an image, I would stay sometimes up to four hours in front of the image, trying to photograph the image, not with a camera, but with my mind. To obtain the volume of the image, I would look at the image from all angles. And I would be humiliated by the museum s security guards because they never understood what I was doing. It was as though I were looking at the image with the intention of stealing it. But it was necessary.
In 1981, Edival and Izaura opened their atelier on the Ladeira do Carmo, just downhill from the museum in the Carmelite convent. It was excellent, Edival said of the museum. It was extraordinary, full of special works, including the Christ at the Column by Francisco das Chagas.
The director of the museum, Frei Eliseu, is remembered in Pelourinho today for a piece of research on religious art. He set out to find which Catholic saints provided visible forms for the orix s , the African saints of Candombl . Before him, the French anthropologist Roger Bastide had published his masterpiece on Brazil s African religions, documenting the historical depth of the connections between Catholic saints and Yoruba deities and revealing variations of association from region to region, even terreiro to terreiro . Frei Eliseu wished to capture the pattern of his own place and what he found in Pelourinho forty or so years ago generally still holds. Yansan is syncretized with Santa B rbara. Yemanj , the goddess of the ocean, can be represented by images of Our Lady of the Conception, Ogum by Saint Anthony, the hunter Ox ssi by Saint George on horseback, slaying the dragon, but Frei Eliseu found Xang visually allied with Saint Michael, his sword raised, his wings spread, while in Bahia today is it usually Saint Jerome with his lion and pen.
That same scholarly Frei Eliseu became, once Edival was settled in Pelourinho, the third of the three he credits with aiding him along the course of his accomplishment:
The director of the museum was Frei Eliseu Vieira Guedes. He treated me like Monsignor Aderbal Sabac de Miranda of Feira de Santana. Except that he was the opposite.
He owned a large library with books and even more books about sacred art. What happens? When I would go to Frei Eliseu and say I would like to do research on images of Nossa Senhora Sant Ana, in the Minas Gerais style of the eighteenth century, let s say. He would say to me, I don t know where it is, but I know it is in some book on that shelf. Are you understanding how it is?
The result: he would compel me to read one, two, three, four, or five books to be able to find what I was looking for. I would be annoyed with him, but the result was extraordinary because I got to know what I needed - and what I did not need at the moment.
Which, in hindsight, putting all of this together, gave me the vast knowledge that I now have about sacred art.
The loss of Eliseu was profound for me. But when Eliseu left, I remained here, and I have never stopped studying the books written by historians about sacred art in Brazil.
Edival read all that could be read about Brazilian sacred art, making comparisons among the writers to discover who was reliable. After reading the authors, he says, I deduced what was real and what was not, who offered me content and who offered me no content. But I was obliged to read them all. The books disappointed him most when they turned to technique. The professors don t understand making, he says, and he wishes that, before writing, they would do what we are doing: You are speaking with the person who makes the work, who makes the work and has the ability to make other things.
Books, and especially their illustrations, were helpful, but Edival says, When I got to know Brazilian work, it was not through reading books, it was by visiting all the Brazilian regions where sacred art was made.
Edival traveled the whole country. He found Minas Gerais important because Aleijadinho worked there; he was the right man at the right time. Rio de Janeiro once had a strong tradition, but it lacked the vitality Aleijadinho gave to Minas Gerais. In S o Paulo, he found fine old works that were modeled in clay, fired, then painted. Par and Maranh o were interesting for their mixture of Portuguese and French styles. Pernambuco endured the Dutch invasion of the seventeenth century and benefited from the churning of Dutch and Portuguese influences into a distinct style that spread to Alagoas. The tradition of Cear , where Edival was born, is exemplified by the solid craft of his friend Bibi, and the tradition of Bahia, where Edival landed, is the richest of all.
In the nineteen-nineties, Edival extended his investigation to Europe. In Portugal, where he stayed three months, he appreciated the old pieces but found the modern work, based on nineteenth-century neoclassicism, lacking in spirit. German work was high in quality but too naturalistic for him; the saints looked like ordinary people. He met admirable sculptors in Spain but found the best in Italy, where the carvers achieved excellence even though they worked in intransigent oak.
All this wandering convinced him that the decision he made, over forty years ago, to live in Bahia was right. Edival says:
Sacred art emerged in Bahia as a result of a beautiful history. Here the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Italians, and even a few of the Dutch worked simultaneously in the eighteenth century.
The artist, by instinct, he robs a little of the knowledge of the other. This is natural. For example, in some lecture that I gave, I said that a poet is nothing more and nothing less than a thief of poetry. Because if a poet wants to turn himself into a great poet, he has to listen to other poets in order to form a conclusion about who he is and what he represents. This is how I see things.
So here, because four techniques worked together - I am not saying populations, I am saying traditions of technique - they started to fuse as though they were beaten together in a blender. And from that emerged the Bahian sacred art.
It became independent, unique in its sculpture, unique in its painting, unique also in the world. In the world.
Bahia became unique in the world.
Edival rigorously distinguishes, as many do not but scholars must, between genetic inheritance and acquired mental patterning. Aleijadinho was pardo but his culture was Portuguese. Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch populations need not mix physically for their traditions of technique and aesthetics to fuse. It was not ethnic diversity but a richness of culture that called Edival to Bahia.
Complex in influence and development, Bahia s art, on display in the churches of his place, provides the resources and inspiration for the artist Edival is: an artist who was gifted at birth, excited in youth, and wants to leave his mark on history; an artist who studies history so he can make new things for old locations; an artist who picks old bits and blends them into fresh, personally fulfilling new works; an artist who stands among the best in the world within the frame of creation he chose for himself during a life of learning and ardent practice.
Edival calls his frame of creation sacred art - arte sacra - a term used generally for exhibitions and catalogs of colonial Brazil s Catholic art. United by more than religious content, sacred art is also a matter of types - of formal configurations - and rigorous techniques, and the Catholic sculptural tradition of Brazil is paralleled in dynamic by the traditions of icon painting in the Eastern Church, Hindu sculpture in South Asia, and Islamic calligraphy in Turkey. All are brushed by fleeting fashions, but all are marked by continuity more than change. That clear dominance of tradition could suggest that sacred art is a variety of folk art, but Edival calls his practice academic to stress the historical study, anatomical accuracy, and professional procedures that, for him, separate sacred art from folk art, from arte popular . So, Edival s sacred art is unlike folk art in its professionalism, and it is unlike fine art in its distance from the manic ambitions, frenzies of fashion, and demands of the market that have generated revolutionary convulsions within the post-Raphaelite art of the West. Edival s art involves a highly professional commitment to continuity, to the subtly mutable progress of tradition.
Set aside what Jos Saramago called the problem of God, and the maker of sacred art - Turkish calligrapher or Indian sculptor, Russian painter or Brazilian carver - is positioned existentially, provided with philosophical problems to ponder, a range of sophisticated forms and techniques to employ, public locations for display, and a certainty of general reception.
Works in the World
The works made by Edival and Izaura Rosas leave them. There is a Socorro in Portugal, an image of Our Lady in the National Cathedral in Washington, and a monumental Concei o - like the one he was carving in Jau when we met - in the chapel of Saint Raphael in Milan. A work of mine, there in the land of Michelangelo, Edival said, for me it is very important.
But the commission Edival and Izaura mention most often came from the Church of Nossa Senhora da Concei o da Praia in 1994. At the time most of their work was sold to collectors, some interested in art, some in history, some in religion, though in most of them those interests mingled. Sales to collectors continue, but since that time business has shifted predominately to churches, making the commission from Concei o da Praia something of a landmark, especially significant and memorable.
To get there, you leave the atelier, descend the Ladeira do Carmo, climb up through the Largo do Pelourinho, cross the Terreiro de Jesus and the Pra a da S , then go down to the elevator that takes you down to the lower city. The Mercado Modelo and the harbor lie before you, and to your left, beside the highway that zips along the waterfront, stands the Church of Nossa Senhora da Concei o da Praia, Our Lady of the Conception of the Beach. Inside on the high altar, the old statue of Concei o that has inspired Edival stands above the Four Evangelists. They are Edival s work.
In 1994, two of the Evangelists were missing, two were in bad shape. Those he took to his atelier on the Ladeira do Carmo. Once he had restored them, officials at the church asked him to create the missing two. Note the difficulty, Edival said. There were no documents, no photographs, nothing. The pieces are from the seventeenth century. I had to construct two new pieces on the same sculptural pattern. He ordered two blocks of wood and they stood for sixty days in his shop while he thought. At night he turned the lights off and touched the old statues in the dark, feeling them to bring them into himself:

Church of Nossa Senhora da Concei o da Praia, 2014

The high altar of Concei o da Praia. Edival s Evangelists below Our Lady, 2014
I wanted to penetrate the souls of the Evangelists that were here. I wanted to follow the footsteps of the artist who made them. I wanted to communicate with him. I m not talking about mysticism; it was the only option I had.
I took their hands in the dark, forty times or so. I had nothing else to do to make the other two.
And then one day, I was sitting there. I looked at the blocks of wood and told my son, Get me a piece of chalk. I traced the two Evangelists, both of them in twenty minutes. I will never be able to explain where they came from. And I changed no line, no detail, until they were finished and polychromed - all of a family.
The priest didn t know which were the old ones, which were the new ones. The new ones are John and Luke, the old ones are Matthew and Mark. They were originally Brazilian, from Bahia.
When, at the end of a year of work, the Evangelists left his shop, Edival wept.
On the altar, the two to the right were restored, the two on the left were created entirely by Edival. They stand, the old and the new indistinguishable, merging gracefully into the splendid decor of the church while couples are married, babies are christened, the congregation gathers for Mass.
Across the street from Edival s shop, in the church of the Carmelite Third Order, an image of Nossa Senhora do Carmo stands within a glass case on the high altar. Customarily images from the high altar are not taken out during the busy period of processions that aligns with the European season of harvest, beginning with Cosme and Dami o in late September and ending with Concei o in early December. Generally churches own smaller and lighter images for carrying. The church of the Carmelite Third Order had an image made for processions, a copy of the statue on the altar, but it proved to be too heavy, and since 2012, the church has borrowed an image of Our Lady of Carmel from Edival s shop - the dress of the Child stitched by Izaura, the statue carved by Edival - to carry on procession.
To the right of Nossa Senhora do Carmo on the high altar, and on the painted ceiling above, there is an image of Saint Teresa of vila, who reformed the Carmelite Order in the sixteenth century.

Nossa Senhora do Carmo. Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, 2007

Nossa Senhora do Carmo by Edival and Izaura. Sacristy, Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, 2014

Nossa Senhora do Carmo by Edival and Izaura in their shop. Pelourinho, 2014

Santa Tereza D Avila, restored by Izaura. Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, 2014
A small statue of Santa Tereza D Avila stands in the corridor that runs, left of the nave, from the door in the tower to the sacristy in the back. It was restored by Izaura.
Restoration might involve minor repairs, but usually it entails a major intervention in response to an invasion by voracious termites. To kill the termites, the statue is boiled in water. All the paint flakes off in the boiling, and the depth of the damage becomes clear. Patches are made with a filler of sawdust and glue, and often newly carved pieces, usually hands and faces, have to be added. Then the image is finished exactly like a new one with sandpaper, gesso, boro , gold leaf, paint, and the ageing agent. Assaulted by termites, Izaura s image of Santa Tereza required radical renovation. It belongs to the time of its making - about 1830, she thinks - in its basic form and palette, but its surface and painting are Izaura s entirely.
Eight days after the image of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, the one made by Edival and Izaura, was borne on procession, the festa of Santa Tereza D Avila arrives. It is October 19, 2014. Fireworks explode at dawn from the church tower. Red textiles roll down from the railings in the blue and gold nave. Izaura s Tereza stands among flowers on the barrow for carrying near the entrance, and photographs of her appear on the folded program and on the T-shirts worn by the organizers.

Izaura s Santa Tereza on the barrow for carrying. Church of the Third Order of Nossa Senhora do Carmo, 2014

Santa Tereza leaves the church

Santa Tereza on procession

Santa Tereza s procession returns to the church, 2014
The service begins with a prayer recited in unison by the Carmelite sisters. The congregation joins in song, then there is a delay. The bishop has lost his way. He arrives at last and delivers a long sermon impossible to hear from the back. Everyone remains agreeably patient. Now the new brothers and sisters of the order are welcomed. The congregation takes communion and sings a last song. Incense swings, bells ring, fireworks crackle in the air, and Izaura s Tereza is carried out the front door and down the steps to join the procession.
Priests lead, the sisters follow the cross, then comes Izaura s Tereza, the bishop beside her, the congregation behind her. They march north through the narrow passage lined by the colorful walls of houses, swing counterclockwise around the cross in the Largo da Cruz do Pascoal, and return home to the church.
That is the intended setting for the creations of Edival and Izaura Rosas, a context - grander than any museum - made by the smell of incense and candles and flowers, the sound of prayer and song and bells and fireworks, the motion of the shoulders and pace of the faithful, the vision of a glittering ancient place of worship.
C OMMERCIAL LOCATIONS PROVIDE points of entry. The stock is spread to view, permitting quantitative generalization and qualitative evaluation. Shopkeepers, practiced at chat, want to talk, hoping conversation will lead to sales; they are happy to answer questions, however strange, happy to provide information, however unreliable.
Our purpose now is to set Edival and Izaura Rosas among others, to move from them toward a wider understanding of contemporary sacred art in the Brazilian Northeast.
To that end we have found three types of commercial location in Salvador to be useful. Art galleries first. Most galleries that sell sacred art feature arte popular or artesanato - a term combining Latin and Arabic words for art that has come to designate skilled regional craft. Gallery owners buy to sell to collectors who want works by artists with names. So the Emp rio Mecenato in Pelourinho and the Brasil A u nearby - a seller of genuine Bahian arte e artesanato - both offer beautiful statues of Our Lady and of Saints Francis and Anthony made by the master Rosalvo Santana of Maragojipinho in Bahia.
The gallery, where excellent works can be seen and their artists have names, is one type. The bazaar is another, and Salvador s example is the Mercado Modelo, down by the harbor, a gathering under a broad roof of booths managed by different proprietors. In 2015, thirteen of the two hundred booths offered carved wooden saints for sale. On their rough trip to market, the saints, for the most part, had shaken free of the names of their creators and even their places of origin. They had become commodities. Jos Boral in the Mercado s Galeria Pena Branca explained the system. A middleman buys from producers in many places, especially in the Rec ncavo, west of Salvador. Then he bundles up and sells a mixed batch to a merchant in the Mercado Modelo who buys - caring nothing about the creators - what is saleable, and saleability depends on the popularity of the saint, the price, and the quality of the carving - in that order. The Rec ncavo, the green region around the towns of Santo Amaro, Cachoeira, and Nazar das Farinhas, was one source the merchants mentioned; Salvador and Juazeiro da Bahia, far to the northwest in the valley of the Rio S o Francisco, were others - all in the state of Bahia.
The third type is the market, where sales of fruit, vegetables, and chickens to butcher spread beyond the buildings that shelter stalls. Salvador s busy market, the Feira de S o Joaquim, repays the ethnographer for time spent there. In the market, food to prepare is accompanied by the handmade earthenware in which it is cooked and served. And there, comparably, the animals destined for sacrifice to the gods are accompanied by the herbs and equipment required by the people of the ax who perform the rituals of Candombl . Their wants include silvery crowns, golden mirrors, and plaster statues of Yemanj as the Star of the Sea, Xang as Saint Jerome, Ox ssi as Saint George, and Omolu as Omolu. There are as well hand-forged iron emblems and figures of orix s , Ex mostly, some made at the edges of the market by Jorge Pacheco and Samuel Rodrigues, others bought in from Salvador and Feira de Santana.
Note first that Edival Rosas belongs in none of these locations, participates in none of their conventions of exchange. He works mainly on commission, and he and Izaura sell uncommissioned works directly to collectors who struggle up the hill and find them in the atelier where they work, above which they live. No businessman cuts into their profit; still, a carved wooden saint by Edival sells for eight to twelve times what a carved wooden saint of comparable size fetches in the Mercado Modelo after a middleman and a merchant have piled their take atop the price paid to the carver. Edival has stubbornly, tenaciously done what he wanted to do, and done it with passion and panache. It hasn t brought him fame or fortune, but it gained him a reputation that brings him all the work he can handle and money enough.
Since expansion is our goal, the second point to make is that if we shift north from Salvador, the capital of Bahia, to Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, and reach out to gather in the adjacent town of Olinda, a sort of sweetened Pelourinho displaced from the metropolis, we will find the same triad of commercial locations. The galleries, Sobrado 7 in Olinda and the commodious Centro de Artesanato de Pernambuco in Recife, have fine works, fastidiously accompanied by the names of their creators. In both you can find images of Our Lady and of Saints Francis and Peter made by Mestre Zuza of Tracunha m in Pernambuco. In Recife s bazaar, the Casa da Cultura, a repurposed old prison, seven cells offered carved wooden saints in 2015. And in Recife s market, the Mercado de S o Jos , fish, vegetables, and Candombl props and gear are sold.

The Feira de S o Joaquim. Salvador, 2016

The Mercado de S o Jos . Recife, 2015

Candombl gear for sale. Mercado de S o Jos , Recife, 2007
In such places of commerce, we step into the channel through which objects, cash, and information flow to connect producers through buyers and sellers to consumers. That bland formulation would fit any process of trade over space, last year or a thousand years ago. We come closer to an understanding of the local situation by asserting that here the process cannot be reduced to a purely economic force, since the channel carries values that contradict or ignore economic logic. The process, we mean to say, does not resemble the global distribution of industrial goods that enriches a privileged few, immiserates an alienated workforce, and requires the support of aggressive advertising media, television and the internet, to convince consumers to buy stuff they don t need and may not even want. Instead, the trade in Brazilian sacred art links small-scale production with small-scale commerce and resembles the trade in the traditional markets of Islam, described by Oleg Grabar, in which, without patronage or planning, people find what they want to buy among things other people wanted to make. Most of the producers (whether rural or urban, women or men), most of the middlemen and merchants (whether rich or poor), and most of the consumers (whether local folks buying for a domestic altar or tourists buying a souvenir) - most of the people whose motives and actions make the system are Brazilian Catholics. Convergence in their values yields the kind of production and exchange that we have encountered.
While traveling in Europe, Edival Rosas found talented carvers working for churches, but he was shocked to find nothing handmade in the shops for religious goods, nothing handmade for sale at the destinations for pilgrims - sites of religious tourism he called them. Absolutely nothing made by hand, he repeated, still astonished. Had he gone east into Asia, he would have found, from Turkey to Japan, an abundance of sacred art made by hand and available for sale to everyday consumers. He would have found that both beauty and sacred power, despite religious differences, depended on the devoted effort of skilled makers - artisans like Edival in spirit. Europe surprised Edival; the United States would have surprised him too. In a fine recent book, Joseph Sciorra describes the veneration, embellishment, and siting of statues of the saints in New York, but since this is the United States, the statues are mass-produced out of concrete, plaster, and plastic. Europeans and North Americans, accustomed as they are to such things, might be surprised, maybe disturbed, that Brazilian sacred art remains predominately handmade.
Confounding simple suppositions of economy and power and progress, Brazilians of modest means want to make, and are willing to buy, devotional objects warmed by imperfections of the human touch - the virtue John Ruskin saw in the Gothic, back in 1853, when industrialization was completing its deformation of his society. Works made by free people, Ruskin argued, vary as individuals do. They are subjective revelations of their mortal makers. They incarnate human presence, the quality that Robert Plant Armstrong would locate in his great phenomenological trilogy over a century later to separate art from lesser things.
There are, of course, tiny plastic saints for the dashboard in Brazil, cheap plastic saints for sale in the bus stations. There are painted plaster saints, which Wallace Ara jo Silva, who labored for two years in a factory making plaster saints, called nothing but industrial products. He atoned at night by carving saints out of wood, and carves today in Cachoeira. We repeat, handwork prevails. The images sold in the galleries, being art in Brazilian terms, are made by hand, made by artists who are workers in clay more often than they are workers in wood. In the market, the smiths of the sacred, the men of Ogum, forge their iron images of the orix s by hand. All of these makers will get their chapters later in this book.
Wooden Saints
What remains to be considered now are the masses of carved wooden saints of the kind sold in the bazaars, the Mercado Modelo in Salvador and the Casa da Cultura in Recife.
When we get to the carvers, they will say, and say correctly, that trade spreads their creations through the nation.

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