Immaculate Conception with Indigenous Donor

Immaculate Conception with Indigenous Donor

c. 1700
unknown artist
Cuzco School
Cuzco, Peru
Oil paint and gold leaf on canvas.
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Frank Jager

Unknown Cuzco artist, Immaculate Conception with Indigenous Donor, about 1700. Oil paint and gold leaf on canvas; 39¾ × 35¼ in. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Frank Jager, 1978.118.

This object is currently on view
height: 39.75 in, 100.9650 cm; width: 35.25 in, 89.5350 cm
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Latin American Art

This painting depicts the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception. The angels and  other elements surrounding the Virgin symbolize her purity and beauty and are derived from passages in Psalms, Revelations, and the Songs of Solomon.  The gate and the staircase in the top corners represent her role as mediator between heaven and earth. The roses signify Mary’s beauty and the irises indicate the sorrows she suffered over the death of her son Jesus.  Beneath the flowers, the fountain and well symbolize of her maternity.  The spotless mirror and the tower represent her purity and chastity.  The European cypress tree of immortality (lower right) has been transformed by the native artist into the more familiar Bolivian yucca plant.  Other native New World elements are blended into this painting of the Virgin Mary.  The Indians of Peru and Bolivia were fond of depictions of the Virgin wearing wide dresses that resembled the surrounding Andes Mountains where their pre-conquest earth goddesses were believed to reside.
     The donor of this painting (lower left-hand corner) is a native man whose clothing exhibits a fusion of Spanish and native style. His white shirt is in the European fashion with a high neck and sleeves edged in narrow lace. The garment he wears directly over the white shirt, however, appears to be a traditional Andean uncu or man’s tunic. The uncu—an indicator of rank depending on color and design motifs—identifies the donor not only as a person of indigenous heritage, but a man of status who can afford to commission a painting. Over the uncu, the donor wears a Spanish-style cape or coat with a standup collar, rosette buttons, and notched buttonholes—a decorative feature on men’s coats where contrasting thread surrounds the buttonhole.
--Donna Pierce, 2015

Known Provenance
Gifted 7 December 1978 to the Denver Art Museum by Mr. & Mrs. Frank Jager. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.