Portrait of Simon de la Valle
Portraiture became increasingly important in colonial Latin America where local artists generally followed the canons accepted for official portraiture in Europe, with figures portrayed in three-quarter view gazing directly at the viewer and flanked by drapery. However, in the Americas the focus on social standing often overshadowed any effort to convey the essential personality of the subject. Although colonial artists accomplished a physical likeness, the faces often show little expression. Instead artists focused their attention on depicting rich details of luxurious clothing and objects that allude to the subject’s abilities or accomplishments. Sometimes coats-of-arms or cartouches with inscriptions outlining the sitter’s heritage or honors were included.
This portrait is one of a pair that was painted of a married couple from Trujillo, Peru. According to the inscriptions, the gentleman was born in Spain and immigrated to Peru to serve as head of the Royal Bank in Trujillo. His Spanish-American wife (2000.250.2) was born in Trujillo and descended from one of Columbus’s navigators. Both husband and wife were literate, as indicated by the writing quill and paper he holds and the book in her hand. The red and white badge on his chest indicates he is a member of the Spanish military-religious order of Calatrava.
-- Donna Pierce, 2015
- “ReVision: Art in the Americas” — Denver Art Museum, 2/16/2020 – 11/8/2020
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