The Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple (Presentación de la Virgen al Templo)

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The Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple (Presentación de la Virgen al Templo)

circa 1720
Paintings
Oil on canvas
55 1/2 x 39 13/16 in. (140.97 x 101.09 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund (M.2010.98)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Juan Francisco de Aguilera is considered a seminal figure in the history of eighteenth-century Mexican painting....
Juan Francisco de Aguilera is considered a seminal figure in the history of eighteenth-century Mexican painting. His significance, however, does not match the lack of documentation about his life and work. While some scholars have hypothesized that he was born in Spain, no documentation has confirmed his origin or provided any indication of where he was trained. Archival documentation does place him in Mexico City around 1722 as a member of the first academy of painting established by the brothers Juan and Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez (1667-1734; 1675-1728). In fact, along with the painter Juan Rodríguez Juárez (and Cristóbal de Villalpando before them), Aguilera is believed to have impelled a major stylistic shift in the eighteenth century. These artists introduced a softer, looser, and more vaporous style that is reminiscent of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617/18-1682) and the school of Seville, but that does not necessarily derive from it. This composition, for example, derives from a work by the French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649) of 1641 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), which Aguilera probably knew from a print. The Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple, signed in the lower center, exemplifies Aguilera's unmistakable style, especially the fluid and soft rendition of the two cherubs that hover benevolently above the scene. The work recalls that of Juan Rodríguez Juárez through the use of rapid, expressive brushstrokes in the hand of the priest, as well as the incandescent tonalities that lend the figures a characteristic glow. The composition also looks forward to the celebrated Miguel Cabrera (ca. 1715-1768) and his series of the life of the Virgin for the church of Santa Prisca (Taxco). In fact, some scholars have suggested that Aguilera was Cabrera's teacher. Despite Aguilera's importance very few works have been securely attributed to him. Perhaps his most significant painting is his Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with Jesuits, a monumental canvas signed and dated in 1720 (Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City). The scarcity of known works by Aguilera, makes this recent acquisition highly significant in terms of understanding the development of the artist and of eighteenth-century New Spanish painting. Ilona Katzew, 2010
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