Birth of the Virgin

Birth of the Virgin

circa 1620
Luis Juárez, Mexican, ca. 1585 - 1639
Work Locations: Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
Oil paint on copper.
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer

Luis Juárez, Birth of the Virgin, about 1620. Oil paint on copper; 39 32½ in. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2011.425.

image height: 39 in, 99.0600 cm; image width: 32.5 in, 82.5500 cm; frame height: 51.5 in, 130.8100 cm; frame width: 47 in, 119.3800 cm; frame depth: 3.375 in, 8.5725 cm
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Latin American Art
This object is currently on view

This large painting on copper panel was created by Luis Juárez (circa 1585-1639), an important Mexican artist who started a painting dynasty which included his son, son-in-law, and two grandsons. Little is known of Juárez’s artistic training but it is clear from his artwork that he was highly skilled with this masterful oil on copper being one of the earliest of his career. Juárez signs this painting “Ludovicus Xuarez F.” on the baby cradle at the bottom left.
     The subject of the painting is the Birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, but instead of depicting the event during the biblical era Juárez instead sets the scene during the time in which he lived, in a wealthy domestic setting. Juárez was influenced by Flemish art as is evidenced by his use of strong light and shadow within an interior, the vivid depiction of sumptuous fabrics, and the intricately painted details of the composition. An exquisite rippled oriental carpet is a focal point in the foreground and draws the viewers attention up toward the magnificent four poster bed with green velvet bed curtains, and the central subject matter. Mary’s mother, Saint Anne leans over the bedside to pass her newly born baby to a midwife or attendant while female servants look on and Saint Joachim, the husband of St. Anne and father of Mary, theatrically enters the room through a curtain in the far right background. A symbol of Mary’s purity, a clear glass bowl, is presented on a silver tray by a woman at the center of the picture plane. Lilies and roses are strewn on the floor, further testaments to Mary’s purity and holiness, while a small white dog, a symbol of fidelity, looks on. The two women in the bottom right corner look out at the viewer and welcome us into the picture by gesturing toward the central scene. The only indicator as to the holiness of this moment is the rompimiento at the top right – the brightly illuminated glimpse into heaven with a vision of cherubs and God the Father.
-- Julie Wilson Frick, 2015

Known Provenance
Gifted 29 December 2011 by the Frederick and Jan Mayer Collection to the Denver Art Museum. 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.
Exhibition History
  • Exhibited 1999,"Copper As Canvas: Two Centuries of Masterpiece Paintings on Copper, 1575-1775," Phoenix Art Museum, AZ
  • Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life 1521 - 1821, Denver Art Museum (April 3 - July 25, 2004) and Meadows Museum of Art (September 1 - October 31, 2004).

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