Portrait of Doña Micaela Esquibel
- unknown artist
Unknown artist, Portrait of Doña Micaela Esquibel, late 1700s. Oil paint on canvas; 21¾ × 16½ in. Gift of Robert J. Stroessner, 1991.1166.
Painted during the second half of the 1700s, this portrait depicts Señora Doña Micaela Esquibel, a native of Puebla, Mexico. She wears a gold-thread embroidered dress, a pearl choker with large pendant pearl, a long pearl and coral necklace, and gold and pearl earrings. Pearls and coral were so readily available in Mexico and South America that women of all classes wore multistrand pearl and coral bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.
The Spanish inscription on this painting indicates that Doña Micaela Esquibel was the mother of the celebrated Capuchin nun, Sister Ana María, also known by her full religious name of María Ana (or Mariana) de San Juan Nepomuceno. Baptized as María Micaela Josefa Francisca Dionisia in Puebla, Mexico in 1751, Sister Ana María professed as a nun in 1771. In 1780, she founded the Convent of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Santa Coleta in northern Mexico City near the sanctuary of the convent’s primary titular devotion, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The status of the painting’s sitter, Doña Micaela Esquibel, is in part demonstrated by the luxurious fabrics and jewels that adorn her body. The inscription, however, further elevates Micaela Esquibel’s position by connecting her to her illustrious and pious daughter, Sor Ana María. The form of the inscription suggests that it may have been added after Micaela Esquibel’s death. In addition, the way in which the inscription refers to Sister Ana María specifically as “Our Very Reverend Mother” suggests that at some point the portrait was displayed within the Convent of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Santa Coleta, and was perhaps even commissioned by the nuns themselves.
--Donna Pierce, 2015; Sabena Kull, 2017-18 Mayer Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art
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