Obidos Turismo

Josefa de Ayala y Cabrera (1630 – 1684) 

Born in Seville in 1630, and daughter of also painter Abílio de Mattos e Silva, she came to Portugal as a young child. She later was part of a novitiate in Coimbra, where she completed her first known work – the representation of Saint Catherine (1646).

Because she didn’t particularly like the life in the convent, Josefa settled in Óbidos and begun an intense activity as a painter, first collaborating with her father and, afterwards, by herself, obtaining great national and international prestige.

Being a rare exception to the rule, she broke many models of society predominantly masculine and establishing herself as a painter. She wasn’t the only woman that followed this activity, but was, however, an exponent, since her attitude concerning painting wasn’t of a mere artisan, but of a true artist, with creative capacities, a refined aesthetic sense and a strong technical control.

She died in Óbidos, in 1684, living a vast work in the country and abroad. Many of her works disappeared with time, due to changes of artistic taste and to the earthquake of 1755. Today her production is dispersed by several institutions, state organisms (museums, embassies, etc.), foundations, churches and private collections.

Her artistic legacy has caused, with time, a growing interest in art historians and specialists, registered by the exhibitions of the National Academy of Fine Arts, in 1942, in the Museum of Ancient Art of Lisbon, in 1949, in Óbidos, in Saint James Church, in the Ogiva Gallery and in the Manor House of Saint Mary's Square, respectively in 1959 and 1984, in the Gallery of Painting of King D. Luís in the Palace of Ajuda, in 1992 and, more recently, in the National Museum of Women in the Arts of Washington and in London, in the Italian Institute, in 1997, where the present piece was also exhibited.