Double-Sided Miniature Painting of the Virgin Mary and Saint Teresa of Avila from a Devotional Locket (Relicario)
- unknown artist
Unknown artist, Double-Sided Miniature Painting of the Virgin Mary and St. Teresa of Avila from a Devotional Locket (Relicario), 1600s or 1700s. Oil paint on copper; 3¼ × 2⅞ in. Gift of Frank B. Freyer II for Frank Barrows Freyer Collection at the Denver Art Museum, 1971.427.
Only about three inches tall, this double-sided miniature painting on copper was likely part of a piece of devotional jewelry, probably a pendant or locket. The small medallion, which shows a portrait of the Virgin Mary on one side and Saint Teresa of Ávila on the other, would have been framed, suspended from a chain or cord, and worn around its owner’s neck. Such devotional lockets, also called relicarios, were popular throughout Catholic Latin America from the colonial period on. The suspended image (or images, if double-sided) often depicted the wearer’s favorite saint or advocation of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Lockets and other devotional jewelry were worn by the faithful from all stations of life, including monks, nuns, ecclesiastics, and lay people. They served to inspire devotion, provide comfort, and protect the wearer from harm. When worn openly on one’s chest or hung in a home, devotional lockets were also a way for the owner to proudly display his or her piety and personal religious affiliations. The original, Peruvian owner of this medallion appears to have had a special affinity for Saint Teresa of Ávila and may even have been a nun of the Carmelite Order, the same religious group Teresa belonged to and worked to reform in sixteenth-century Spain.
--Sabena Kull, 2017-18 Mayer Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art