Birth of the Virgin

Birth of the Virgin

1751, Lifespan: 1695-1768
Miguel Cabrera, Mexican, 1695-1768
Born: Oaxaca, Mexico
Work Locations: Mexico
Oil paint on canvas
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer

Miguel Cabrera, Birth of the Virgin, 1751. Oil paint on canvas; 72⅜ × 52¾ in. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2014.210.

frame height: 84 in, 213.3600 cm; frame width: 58 in, 147.3200 cm; image height: 72 3/8 in, 183.8325 cm; image width: 52 3/4 in, 133.985 cm
Mich. Cabrera pinxit Mexici anno 1751
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Latin American Art
This object is currently on view

This work is one from a series on the life of the Virgin Mary by the famed Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera. Several panels from the series are now housed at the Museo de America in Madrid. This scene shows the birth of the Virgin, who is being handed to her father, Saint Joachim. Emanating from his mouth is a scroll reading “Tota pulchra es Maria” (You are all fair, Mary), a line adapted from Song of Songs (4:7). In the background, recovering from her labors, is Saint Anne, the Virgin’s mother. The text she speaks, “Ego clamavi, quoniam exaudisti me deus” (I call on you, my God, for you will answer me), comes from Psalm 17:6. Iconographically, the importance of Anne and Joachim had waned in Europe by the eighteenth century but remained strong in Latin America, as evidenced by this painting.

Miguel Cabrera (1695?–1768) is considered the most important and certainly the most famous artist of the late colonial period in Mexico. Renowned in his day, Cabrera operated a large and prolific workshop from 1756 to 1768. As a result, paintings both signed and attributed to this artist are of varied quality. Since this painting is signed and dated 1751, it is one of the earlier accomplished paintings by Cabrera executed before his workshop was established and therefore unequivocally entirely by his hand. It also demonstrates the influence of his mentors José de Ibarra and Juan Rodríguez Juárez in both composition and style.

– Donna Pierce, 2015; revised by Kathryn Santner, Frederick and Jan Mayer Fellow of Spanish Colonial Art, 2023

Known Provenance
Gifted 25 November 2014 by the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer 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
  • "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).
  • Exhibited 2005-2011, Denver Art Museum

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