The Golden Carving

The golden carving is the great hallmark of Baroque religious architecture. The fantasy and monochrome printed by altarpiece narratives convey the believers to a dimension closer to God. Gold was the precious metal that most fascinated the Portuguese of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as it was synonymous with wealth and triumph.

We are facing decorative exemplars of carved wood and finely gilded with real gold thread. In Braga, the main examples of golden carving, beyond the magnificent altarpiece of the Mercy Church and the Cathedral's pipe organ case, both designed by Marceliano de Araújo in the 1730s, which already have a typical Johannine format, belong to the so-called national baroque period. One of the main examples of this period is the altarpiece of the church of S. Paulo, where one can see in detail the guidelines of this decorative style.

We also highlight the fidelity to national canons of Penha church, the side altarpieces of the Pópulo and the altarpiece of St. Victor, out of the hands of Domingos Lopes, one of the main carvers of the period. Finally, a reference to the Santa Cruz church altarpiece, stubbornly golden, but already complies with the neoclassical canons, superbly carved by Frei José Vilaça.

The golden craving is a decorative technique that attests to a deliberate choice in the volumetry’s game. Its implementation involved, not just the trace artists, but the carvers (altarpieces carvers) and gilders.

The most common decorative elements associated with narrative altarpiece gilded are the angels (putti), the phoenix, the acanthus leaves and bunches of grapes. In the Johannine period, we see associated with other elements such as wreaths, garlands, curtains and feathers, accompanied by the ubiquitous torchbearers’ angels. The hallmark of rococo carving is mainly due to the asymmetric game shell-work and vegetal elements.

 Brochure from Blue and gold – Discovering Braga

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