SPANISH COLONIAL (PERUVIAN), 1776
The Virgin and Child in a Tree with Marian symbols, an Angel,
and the kneeling figure of Don Antonio Fernandos
Oil on canvas
38 ½ x 30 ¼ inches
(98 x 76.8 cm)
Said to have come from Luchow’s Restaurant, New York
Guido Luchow Eckstein, New York and Boca Raton (until 2011)
MATER CASTISSIMA / Flores Simul… et Fructus/ Hortus conclusus/ El mui devoto de la S.ra … Año de /1776/ Dn Antonio Fernandos Teniente de Cavalleria Por el Superior Govierno/ O quam puchra est casta generatio… Sap. 4/ C.P.S.C.M … Klauber Cath Sc. Et exe. A.V.
This remarkable example of Colonial devotional painting draws on a European source for its principal imagery: the engraving “Mater Castissima,” by Josef Sebastian Klauber, published as plate 16 of Litaniae Lauretanae by Franciscus Xaveris Dornn by Johan Baptist Birckhart in Augusburg in 1750. The painting’s inscriptions directly derive from Klauber’s engraving. The heading “Mater Castissima” (Mother Most Chaste) is followed by illustrated Marian epithets taken from the Song of Songs. The principal one, “Flores. Simul et Fructus,” flower and fruit together, alludes to the concept of Mary as both as virgin and mother and is illustrated by the Virgin’s appearance within a tree with flowers at the left and fruit at the right. Below appear an enclosed garden at the left, “Hortus conclusus,” and a sealed fountain at the right, “Fons signatus,” further emblems of Mary’s virginity and the miraculous conception of Christ. An angel with a flaming sword stands outside the closed gate of the garden. The motto below, “What a beautiful and chaste creature,” is, as inscribed, from the Book of Wisdom, 4.
Exceptional in this painting is the figure of its donor, a bewigged European officer. He is identified by the inscription as Don Antonio Fernandos [Fernandez] a lieutenant in the Spanish militia, and is seen kneeling with hands in prayer, his tricorn hat on the ground before him. Further research, it is hoped, will help identify biographical information about the donor. The date of the painting, 1776, more momentous to the north, is inscribed to his right.
The fruit in Klauber’s tree is the traditional apple. The artist of our painting, however, has substituted another fruit, less rounded and with a fringed end: pomegranates. Pomegranates are not indigenous to the New World, but were introduced in Latin America and Spain in the mid eighteenth-century. One source gives a date of 1769. Their use here is remarkable as it involves the introduction of what was a then-exotic European fruit figuratively transplanted into a devotional image from Colonial Peru.
A later Peruvian painting employing the same source is Antonio Vilca’s 1803 painting in the Iglesia de Surite, Cuzco.