Portrait of María del Carmen Cortés Santelizes y Cartavio
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. Maria del Carmen Cortes y Cartavio was born in Trujillo and descended from one of Columbus’s navigators. She holds a book in her right hand, suggesting that she was literate, and wears a brocade dress made with gold and silk thread and adorned with silver-thread trim. Her elaborate jewelry includes pearl chandelier earrings, a three-strand pearl necklace with suspended cross of silver and diamonds, plus pearl bracelets, a diamond ring, and a rosary with gold filigree cross. Her husband (2000.250.2) was born in Spain and immigrated to Peru to serve as head of the Royal Bank in Trujillo.
-- Donna Pierce, 2015
- “ReVision: Art in the Americas” — Denver Art Museum, 2/16/2020 – 11/8/2020
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