Unknown Artist, Peru, Inca Noblewoman, c. 1850-1870
Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Dr. Belinda Straight by exchange and New World Department Acquisition Funds, 1996.18
Photograph courtesy of the Denver Art Museum
This painting is a posthumous portrait of an ancestor, undoubtedly commissioned by her descendants in the late colonial period to assert their claims to Inca nobility.
The inscription claims that she was the first Christian Inca woman in the Andes and that when a man tried to violate her vow of chastity, she fought and beheaded him. In doing so, she recreated a feat credited to Mama Occllo, the first queen of the Inca dynasty, who conquered Cuzco by decapitating an enemy. Her deed also echoes that of the Old Testament’s Judith, who saved the Jewish nation by beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.
--Donna Pierce, 2015
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