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18th C Cuzco School Painting Virgin Immaculada


Spanish Colonial, Peru, Cuzco School, ca. 18th century CE. An enormous framed oil on canvas depicting the Virgin Inmaculada Concepcion (also known as the Purisima Concepcion) in a style that bears the hallmarks of Cusquena style, such that the artist featured a religious subject, did not emphasize linear perspective, favored rich jewel tones (red, yellow, and blue) as well as earth tones, and lavishly embellished the composition with gold leaf (particularly common in imagery of the Virgin Mary). Here we see the Virgin as a young woman dressed in a flowing white robe with a red and blue cloak all elaborately decorated with gold embroidered trim and adornments, a brown rope around her waist (a Franciscan variant), wearing a bejeweled gold crown and cross surrounded by a faint white crown of twelve stars, her hands touching in prayer, and her beautiful visage gazing downward, as ethereal seraphim and winged angels carrying tributes surround her in the heavenly realm. Size: 75.25" L x 50.5" W (191.1 cm x 128.3 cm), with frame measures 75.5" L x 51" W (191.8 cm x 129.5 cm)

The term Immaculate Conception refers not to the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary (this is represented in the Annunciation), but rather to the conception of Mary herself in the womb of her mother Anne. James Hall writes, "According to that doctrine, since the Virgin was chosen - was indeed fore-ordained from the beginning of time - to be the vessel of Christ's Incarnation, she must herself be stainless (hence her title 'Purissima'); more specifically she alone of mankind was free from the taint of Original Sin: that is, she herself was conceived 'without concupiscence.'" (Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Harper & Row, 1979, p. 326)

The art of 17th century Spain, motivated by the Counter-Reformation, saw passionate veneration of the Virgin and led to a new vision of the Immaculate Conception. The parameters were codified by Spanish painter Francisco Pacheco in his "Art of Painting" (1649). The fundamental features were based on the pregnant 'Woman of the Apocalypse' who was "robed with the sun, beneath her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1, see Apocalypse 15). Pacheco wrote that the Virgin should be depicted as a youthful female of 12 to 13 years old, wearing a white robe and a blue cloak and the Franciscan girdle around her waist with the three knots, with her hands either folded upon her breast or pressed together in a prayerful gesture. There are several additional dictates, and the image has had many variations on the theme. For example, in this example, the Franciscan tie does not show three knots.

The Cuzco School (Escuela Cuzquena) was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition which originated following the 1534 Spanish Conquest of the Inca Empire and continued during the Colonial Period in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Though based in Cusco, Peru (the former capital of the Inca Empire), the Cuzco School extended to other cities of the Andes, present day Bolivia, and Ecuador. Today it is regarded as the first artistic center that taught European visual art techniques in the Americas. The primary intention of Cuzco School paintings was to be didactic. Hoping to convert the Incas to Catholicism, the Spanish sent religious artists to Cusco who created a school for the Quechua peoples and mestizos. Interestingly, Cusquena art was created by the indigenous as well as Spanish creoles. In addition to religious subjects, the Cuzco School expressed their cultural pride with paintings of Inca monarchs. Despite the fact that Cuzco School painters had studied prints of Flemish, Byzantine, and Italian Renaissance art, these artists' style and techniques were generally freer than that of their European models.

Condition: Painting shows extensive craquelure commensurate with age. New stretcher bars and canvas relined at borders. Verso shows signs of repairs to upper right, lower right, lower left, lower center, and an old repair in the center. Also visible are the darkened linear marks, presumably created by the old stretcher bars. The back of the canvas has darkened with age.

Provenance: ex- private Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA collection

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