Death Portrait of Don Thomas María Joachín Villaseñor y Gómez

Death Portrait of Don Thomas María Joachín Villaseñor y Gómez

1760
Artist
unknown artist
Locale
Guadalajara
Country
Mexico
portrait painting
Oil paint on canvas
Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer
2013.316

Unknown artist, Death Portrait of Don Thomas María Joachín Villaseñor y Gómez, 1760. Oil paint on canvas; 52¼ × 74½ × 3¼ in. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2013.316.

This object is currently on view
Dimensions
frame height: 52 1/4 in, 132.7150 cm; frame width: 74 1/2 in, 189.2300 cm; frame depth: 3 1/4 in, 8.2550 cm
Inscription
"R(ta?) D. Thomas Maria Joachin Villas.r y Gomez, hijo fexit.mo de D. Lorenzo Xavier de Villas.r Regidor, y Alcalde Ordinario q(ue) fue de esta Ciudad de Guadalax. Y de Da Maria Josepha Gomez: murio a los 5 a y 8 m(s) de sue dad a 23 de Junio de 1760"
Department
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Collection
Latin American Art
Late in the Spanish colonial period in Mexico, funerary portraiture became increasingly common, such as this example. Although an established tradition in Europe, death portraiture became more prevalent in Spanish America, particularly for children, who were often depicted as members of the clergy, as seen here, or as archangels. Since church doctrine stipulated that baptized children who died before developing full intellectual capacity were innocent of sin, they were immediately and unconditionally admitted into heaven. As a result, were referred to as angelitos. With the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, the tradition transitioned from oil on canvas to photographic portraits. According to the inscription, little Don Thomas was not yet six years old when he died in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1760. He is depicted dressed in the habit of a Jesuit and holds a Jesuit biretta in his left hand, indicating both the family’s association with that order and that he probably was already dedicated by the family for the priesthood, as was common, particularly with second sons. Reminiscent of crowned nun portraits of the same era, he wears a flowered crown, in this case made of marigolds, a flower associated with death since ancient times in Mexico and still used today in Day of the Dead ceremonies. The headboard of his bed or bier is decorated with mirrors in a fan design, imitating a halo, but also common on headboards and other furniture of the 18th century. --Donna Pierce, 2013
Known Provenance
Gifted 25 November 2013 by the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer of Denver, CO to the Denver Art Museum. 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
  • Exhibited "Patronato, Painting from Baroque Mexico: Selected Works from the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer," 2005, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
  • "Collecting a New World: Spanish Colonial Art from the Jan and Frederick R. Mayer Collection," Apr 2-May 14, 2005, Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy
  • "Heaven and Earth: The Jan and Frederick Mayer Collection of Spanish Colonial Art from the Denver Art Museum, Jun 16-Oct 8, 2006, Museo de las Americas, Denver
  • "From Viceregal to Verancular: Painting in Colonial Mexico and New Mexico," Nov 17, 2006-Apr 29, 2007, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Santa Fe.