In 1789, the sober shapes of Neoclassic wood carvings emerged for the first time in Bahia in the Sisterhood Chapel of the Sacred Sacrament. In 1813, the Church of our Lord of Bonfim was built within these molds, soon to become an icon in Bahia Neoclassicism. From there on out, there was a wave of reforms to replace the heavy Baroque ornamentation that dominated Bahia’s churches during the previous century for classic lines.
This movement would last for practically the entire 19th century and would leave Bahia with the country's richest archive of Neoclassic wood carving, complete with original interpretations of European Neoclassic elements. Despite this fact, the period and its works of art never received the due attention from scholars, but were instead stigmatized as repressive to Baroque creativity.
To fill this gap in Art History, reveal the truth behind the myth and rehabilitate the movement, professor Luiz Alberto Freire from the Federal University of Bahia School of Fine Arts, launched A Talha Neoclássica na Bahia. During his work, he searched Portuguese files and periodicals from the time and visited and analyzed the decorations of dozens of churches, including in the rural regions of Bahia.
The work – which won the second edition of the Clarival do Prado Valladares Award – was published in 2006 with 560 pages and over 700 photos of altar pieces and decorative elements. The work was essential for increasing knowledge on the evolution of religious art in Bahia.