Virgen de la Leche (Madonna Lactans)

Virgen de la Leche

(Madonna Lactans)
circa 1600
Artist
Mateo Pérez de Alesio, Italian artist, Peruvian artist, 1547-1606
Born: Alezio, Italy
Work Locations: Lima, Peru, Rome, Italy, Seville, Spain
Matteo da Lecce, 1547– ca.1606
Locale
Lima, Peru
Country
Peru
Style/Tradition
Italian School, 16th century (Esc. Italiana, ff. S. XVI)
painting
Oil on copper
Purchased with funds from Frederick and Jan Mayer, Alianza de las Artes Americanas, Carl Patterson, David and Boo Butler, Spanish Colonial Acquisitions and Deaccession Funds including by exchange the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art, made possible by the Renchard family
2016.213

Mateo Pérez de Alesio / Matteo da Lecce, Peru, Virgen de la Leche, about 1600. Oil on copper. Denver Art Museum: Purchased with funds from Frederick and Jan Mayer, Alianza de las Artes Americanas, Carl Patterson, David and Boo Butler, Spanish Colonial Acquisitions and Deaccession Funds including by exchange the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art, made possible by the Renchard Family, 2016.213
 

This object is currently on view
Dimensions
height: 21 7/8 in, 55.5625 cm; width: 16 1/4 in, 41.2750 cm; frame height: 27 1/2 in, 69.8500 cm; frame width: 24 3/8 in, 61.9125 cm; frame depth: 1 in, 2.5400 cm
Department
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Collection
Latin American Art

  This late 1500s painting on copper panel by Mateo Pérez de Alesio (also known as Matteo da Lecce) represents a Nursing Madonna (Madonna Lactans), known in Spanish as Virgen de la Leche, a very old iconography of the Madonna and Child in which the Virgin Mary is shown breastfeeding the infant Jesus. Pérez de Alesio, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the art of painting in colonial Peru, drew inspiration for his composition from a work by Scipione Pulzone, a renowned Neapolitan painter active in Rome in the last third of the 16th century. The Virgen de la Leche was a popular devotion in Lima and Pérez de Alesio painted several versions of this iconography, all of them roughly the same size and on copper panel.

  Born in Alezio, Southern Italy, circa 1547 to a Spanish father, Antonio Pérez, and an Italian mother, Madama Lucente, Pérez de Alesio grew up on the fringes of the Spanish empire in Italy. While still a teenager, the aspiring artist moved to Rome to learn the art of painting. In the 1560s he has been documented as working for Cesare Nebbia painting the murals of the famed Villa d’Este in Tivoli, near Rome, the retreat commissioned by the powerful Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este (1509–1572).

  He was an ambitious young artist eager to make a name for himself; in 1574 Pérez de Alesio, together with the painter Guidonio Guelfi del Borgo, received the important commission to paint a fresco for the entrance of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to replace a damaged work by Domenico Ghirlandaio. Between 1575 and 1576 the artist worked on the fresco decoration of the Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome. Like many painters of this era, Pérez de Alesio moved to different places looking for job opportunities. He worked on the island of Malta between 1577 and 1581 on the fresco mural decoration of the Throne Room of the Grandmaster's Palace, Valletta. Returning to Rome the painter produced and published a series of 15 large engravings of his work in Malta: I veri ritratti della guerra, & dell’assedio, & assalti dati alla isola di Malta dall’armata turchesca l’anno 1565. In 1583 Pérez de Alesio moved to Seville where he received several important commissions including a fresco depicting Saint Christopher (1584) for the Cathedral.    

  Around 1589–90 Pérez de Alesio, together with an assistant named Pedro Pablo Morón, immigrated to Lima, Peru. They traveled to the New World as part of the group that accompanied the powerful Viceroy García Hurtado de Mendoza. Pérez de Alesio became the official painter of the Viceroy and in 1590 painted his portrait. In January 3rd, 1598 he married in Lima Doña María Fuentes de la Cadena with whom he had children. His career in the “City of Kings,” (as Lima is known) was very successful as he was an artist who managed to fully express the religious feeling of his time. Between 1590 and 1606 Perez de Alesio produced works for many important churches including the Convent of Santo Domingo, the church of La Merced and the Cathedral in Lima. He died in Lima before 1616.


― Jorge Rivas Pérez, 2016

Known Provenance
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.