Josefa de Ayala Camacho Figueira Cabrera Romero (1630-1684)
Josefa d’Óbidos borns in Seville in 1630. Her life takes place between the village of Óbidos, where her parents settled around 1634 and the city of Coimbra, where she entered the Santa Ana Convent for two years. She lives between nearby towns, like Caldas da Rainha, Alcobaça, Nazaré and Buçaco… Always in a regional universe, quiet and modest, deeply devoted, with its churches, confraternities, brotherhoods and convents, far from the great centers and the European artistic movements.
It is in her father's workshop, the renowned painter Baltazar Gomes da Figueira (Óbidos, 1604 - Óbidos 1674), formed aesthetically in Seville and in contact with artists such as Francisco Zurbarán, Francisco Herrera or Juan del Castillo, that Josefa learns the art of painting and with her father she works for years.
Despite this isolation, and the fact, in itself exceptional in this context - being a woman painter and one of the few in Portugal at the time, the way she expresses herself artistically is peculiar. In her work, Josefa manages to integrate, feel and interpret with a very specific plastic language the Baroque spirit and aesthetics. As stated by Vítor Serrão, “Josefa's style was affirmed early in terms of absolute individualization, to the point that her works, even if not signed or documented, were easily recognizable.”
There is a mystical dimension in Josefa de Ayala's painting, an innocent and deeply human feeling, a sensorial and tactile presence of objects, which are articulated in an easily identifiable iconographic and aesthetic code, but fully Baroque.
Josefa graduated from her father's workshop and, consequently, both worked on a common repertoire for certain themes, such as still lifes. The models of baskets of cherries, dishes with cheese and flowers, bowls with cakes and biscuits, baskets with bread and Easter cakes, were replicated in different compositions, in a production of an official nature. Josefa manages to create an environment of affection and tranquillity that makes her painting unmistakable.
Josefa d’Óbidos was considered the prototype of the national 17th century culture, and her work was highly valued in the patronage context of the time and disputed by the aristocratic collections. She lived most of her life in Óbidos, a village that fulfilled the requirements of the village court, for its active and open nobility, defender of the cause of Bragança against the Spanish domain, for the lay brotherhoods and the municipal senate, for literary gatherings and residences with works of art, in addition to the importance of its historical heritage.