Da Costa, Joseph Mendes

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DA COSTA, JOSEPH MENDES (1863–1939), father of modern Dutch sculpture. He was born in Amsterdam, where his father kept a stonecutting workshop, a circumstance which affected his choice of career. At the start of his career he produced a series of earthenware figures of great charm, including many on Jewish subjects, which reflected the long period he had spent in Amsterdam's Jewish quarter. He also made figures of animals, such as his Melancholy Apes, for which he became well known. He received an honorary degree of doctor of biology from Groningen University for this work. After 1905 Da Costa was frequently commissioned to provide sculptures for public buildings. For these he developed a highly stylized idiom. From 1907 to 1911 he sculpted portraits of famous personages, including Van Gogh, Jan Steen, and Spinoza. After 1917 he completed many important works, such as the monument to the Boer general De Wet, the bronze group "De Liefde" ("Love"), and the monument to President Steyn of the Orange River Republic called "De Raadsman" ("The Counselor"). He also sculpted a number of biblical subjects, among them The Sacrifice of Abraham, Job and His Friends, Jeremiah, and David. Da Costa's strong, robust style generally achieves expressiveness rather than outward beauty of form.


Roth, Art, 869–70; Art Journal, 23 (1963), 108.