The Virgin of Valvanera

The Virgin of Valvanera

Circa 1710
Artist
Cristobal de Villalpando, Mexican, 1649-1714
Born: Mexico City, Mexico
Work Locations: Mexico City, Mexico
Follower of
Country
Mexico
painting
Oil paint on canvas.
A gift of the collection of Jan and Frederick Mayer.
2008.832

Follower of Cristobal de Villalpando, The Virgin of Valvanera. Mexico, circa 1710. Oil on canvas, 79 1/2 x 57 5/8 in. Gift of the collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2008.832.

Dimensions
image height: 79.5 in, 201.9300 cm; image width: 57.625 in, 146.3675 cm; frame height: 91.5 in, 232.4100 cm; frame width: 67.5 in, 171.4500 cm
Inscription
Inscribed in lower left corner (flaking from canvas)
Department
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Collection
Latin American Art

This Mexican colonial painting is a portrait of a specific statue of the Virgin from the Rioja province of northern Spain. Spanish families often continued their regional homeland devotions when they came to the New World. The legend of the original statue in Spain is seen in the painting. The statue was hidden in a tree during one of the Muslim invasions of the area. Years later, reformed bandits were instructed by an angel how to find the Virgin in a tree with a spring at its roots and a beehive in its trunk. When they approached the tree it miraculously opened to reveal the statue inside. A church and later a monastery were founded and can be seen in the lower section of the painting.  
     The depiction of abundantly flowing water, elongated forms and spiky church spires in this painting of the Virgin of Valvanera are particularly reminiscent of "The Deluge" by Cristóbal de Villalpando (ca. 1649-1714) in the Cathedral of Puebla in Mexico. Villalpando is considered the most accomplished artist of the colonial period in Mexico as well as a pioneer in developing a painting style decidedly divergent from European traditions and unique to Mexico.  Although compositions are based in part on European engravings, Villalpando and his followers moved beyond the Old World tradition by tightening the focus of the composition and moving it to the front of the picture plane, creating a shallow space for the action. They also retained many traits from Mannerism, long out of favor in Europe, such as contrived body and hand positions with elongated limbs as well as diaphanous and surreal textile colors.
-- Donna Pierce & Julie Wilson Frick, 2015

Known Provenance
Gifted 18 December 2008 to the Denver Art Museum by Frederick and Jan Mayer. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.
Exhibition History
  • “ReVision: Art in the Americas” — Denver Art Museum, 2/16/2020 – 11/8/2020