This painting depicts Saint Salvador de Horta healing the sick. Saint Salvador de Horta was a Franciscan friar born in 1520 in Santa Colona de Farnés, Gerona, Spain. He was renowned for his many miracles (especially healing the sick) and for taking vows of poverty; he was eventually canonized in 1717 by Pope Clement XI.
In this painting the saint is depicted at the footsteps of a church, offering his blessing to a wounded man at the bottom right. I have attributed the painting to Juan Rodríguez Juárez. Born to a prominent dynasty of painters, Rodríguez Juárez is credited with introducing important stylistic and iconographic innovations at the beginning of the eighteenth century. He was also concerned with elevating the status of painting, and along with his brother Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez he established a painting academy around 1722. The composition (taken from a print by Peter Paul Rubens) must have enjoyed some popularity among the Franciscans. An earlier canvas of the same subject was commissioned from the artist José Juárez—Rodríguez Juárez's grandfather—for the Convento Grande de San Francisco, Mexico City.
Rodríguez Juárez must have known his grandfather's painting (today in the Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City), which probably served as a model for his own. There are, however, significant differences, including the addition of the Virgin Mary in the sky, and the masterful loose brushstrokes that are exemplified by the group of ethereal figures standing in the background. This is an important work that represents how the tradition of local painting within New Spain itself could carry as much weight as the use of European sources in creating new and vibrant compositions.
Ilona Katzew, 2009