AYALA, Josefa de
(b. 1630, Sevilla, d. 1684, Óbidos)


Josefa de Ayala e Cabrera, known as Josefa de Óbidos, Portuguese painter and engraver. She was the daughter of the Portuguese painter Baltazar Gomes Figueira (1597-1674) and a Spanish lady, Doña Catarina de Ayala y Cabrera. After the restoration of the Portuguese monarchy in 1640 the family moved to Coimbra. Here Josefa began her apprenticeship under her father, a painter of landscapes, still-lifes and religious works, who in 1644 painted the retable of Nossa Senhora da Graça, Coimbra, in the naturalist-tenebrist style he had learnt in Seville in the circles of Juan del Castillo, Juan de Roelas and Francisco de Zurbarán.

Josefa's first known works are engravings, executed in 1646. They demonstrate that she had achieved a high degree of skill by the age of sixteen. Later she executed several religious altarpieces for churches and convents in central Portugal, as well as portraits and still-lifes for private customers. Among her chief religious works are the five panels for the Saint Catherine altarpiece of the Church of the Holy Mary (Santa Maria) in Óbidos, in 1661. In 1672-73 she painted the altarpiece of Saint Theresa of Ávila for the Carmelite Convent of Cascais. In 1679 she completed an altarpiece for the Church of the Mercy of Peniche. Her best known portrait is that of Faustino das Neves, dated c.1670, which is in the Municipal Museum of Óbidos.

Josefa de Ayala was one of the most celebrated Portuguese artists of the 17th century, famed as a painter of still-lifes and religious subjects, as well as being an accomplished engraver. She lived as an independent woman earning her own living from her paintings.

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