There are three distinct phases of Baroque church architecture in Minas Gerais. The first, from the beginning of the eighteenth century to about 1730, was very ornate and often involved extravagant carving and gilding, but left exteriors plain; sculpture was formal, with stiff, rather crude statues. The second phase dominated the middle decades of the eighteenth century, with equally extravagant decorations inside, especially around the altar, and the wholesale plastering of everything with gold; the exteriors were now embellished with curlicues and panels in fine Minas soapstone, ceilings were painted and sculpture noticeably more natural, although still highly stylized. The peak was the period from 1760 to 1810, and this third phase of barroco mineiro produced stunning work: the exterior decoration was more elaborate, with fine carving in both wood and stone, but the interiors were less cluttered, with walls often left plain. By now, too, the religious sculpture, with its flowing realism, had broken the stylistic bounds that confine most Baroque art.

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