Birth of the Virgin

Birth of the Virgin

c. 1700
Manuel de Arellano, Mexican, 11/13/1722
Work Locations: Mexico City, Mexico
Active Dates: c. 1691 - 1722
Attributed to
Oil paint on canvas
Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer

Attributed to Manuel de Arellano, Birth of the Virgin, about 1700. Oil paint on canvas; 51¼ × 79 × 1⅝ in. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2014.214.

frame height: 60.375 in, 153.3525 cm; frame width: 88 in, 223.5200 cm; frame depth: 1.688 in, 4.2875 cm; image height: 51.25 in, 130.1750 cm; image width: 79 in, 200.6600 cm; depth: 1.625 in, 4.1275 cm
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Latin American Art

This painting is signed "Arellano" and is attributed to Manuel de Arellano who was active from around 1691 until at least 1722.  He is identified in documents as a "Master Painter" and contracted apprentices in 1703 and 1717.  The composition of this painting has been related to specific paintings of the Seville school including examples by Diego Velasquez and his father-in-law, Francisco Pacheco. Images of these European paintings would have been transported to the New World by way of engravings from which artists referenced in creating compositions and depicting iconography.
     The painting shows the Birth of the Virgin Mary with her mother, Saint Anne, in bed flanked by various family members and servants and also with the Virgin’s father Joachim. In addition to representing an important subject in European and Spanish colonial painting, the scene is set in a contemporary Mexican bedroom, providing an insight into domestic settings in upper class households of the colonial period. Some of the important details of daily life that are depicted include the typical heated brazier in the lower right, Baroque-style chair, and the Baroque bed with elaborate canopy and curtains. All such objects are described in documents of the era in Mexican homes.
     Several members of the Arellano family were active in Mexico as painters during the transition from the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries.  Although most of their signed works bear only the surname "Arellano," two painters have been identified from documents: Antonio, the father, and Manuel, his son.  In addition, several paintings are signed "the mute Arellano," and a certain José de Arellano, whom some scholars have conjectured may belong to the family dynasty, has yet to be documented in connection with any known painting.  The relationship of these latter to Antonio and Manuel is still unclear. The Denver Art Museum has paintings by all four members of the Arellano family of painters in the Spanish Colonial collection. The DAM is the only institution in the United States and one of only a few in the world to have the Arellano workshop fully represented.
--Donna Pierce & Julie Wilson Frick, 2015

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
  • Spanish Colonial Galleries, 2002 - 2011, Denver Art Museum.
  • "Mud to Masterpiece: Mexican Colonial Ceramics," March 2011-March 2013, Denver Art Museum

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