Nun’s Badge with the Annunciation and Saints (Medallón de monja con la Anunciación y santos)

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Nun’s Badge with the Annunciation and Saints (Medallón de monja con la Anunciación y santos)

Mexico, circa 1750
Paintings
Watercolor on vellum on paper, tortoiseshell frame
Framed: 7 1/2 × 6 1/2 in. (19.1 × 16.5 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Deaccession Fund (M.2015.142.1)
Currently on public view:
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1 MAP IT
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1

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Curator Notes

This small-scale painting is a badge worn by nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception (also known as Conceptionists) in Mexico as part of their dress.

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This small-scale painting is a badge worn by nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception (also known as Conceptionists) in Mexico as part of their dress. Painted badges originated in Mexico in response to religious reforms introduced by the archbishop Francisco Manso y Zúñiga (ruled 1629-1635), who attempted to curtail the luxury and privilege of the convent lifestyle. He forbade nuns to wear shields made of gold, precious stones, and enamel. The nuns circumvented this rule by commissioning shields painted on copper or parchment, and set into frames made of tortoiseshell. Many of the badges were painted by the best artists of the day.

This badge is signed on a banderole "Martínez Sancti Officii Notarius Fecit" (Made by Francisco Martínez, notary of the Holy Office). Martínez was prominent painter from Mexico City who fulfilled many commissions for the Jesuits and was named notary of the Holly Tribunal – a prestigious title that points to his high social standing. The badge depicts the Annunciation and a host of saints, including Saints Joseph and John the Baptist flanking God the Father and the Holy Spirit; Saint Anthony (behind the angel); and Saints Catherine, Gertrude, and Jerome in the lower edge of the composition. Painted badges on copper are much more common than those on parchment or paper, of which only a few survive.


Ilona Katzew, Curator and Department Head, Latin American Art, 2015
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Provenance

Private collection, Paris; Galerie Terrades, Paris, 1998; LACMA, 2015.

Label

In Mexico, badges were a central ornament of a nun’s habit, especially on her day of profession.

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In Mexico, badges were a central ornament of a nun’s habit, especially on her day of profession. The most common themes are the Immaculate Conception and the Annunciation; the perimeter is typically crowded with a choir of saints, which includes the most important devotions for the order and cults of particular interest to the owner. Worn close to the body, badges often carried political messages and were painted by the best artists of the day.

Painted on vellum, the example signed by Francisco Martínez still preserves its original tortoiseshell frame and glass. It depicts the Annunciation and a cohort of saints, including Saints Joseph and John the Baptist flanking God the Father and the Holy Spirit; Saint Anthony (behind the angel); and possibly Saints Catherine, Gertrude, and Jerome along the lower edge. The conspicuous Latin signature on the platform’s trim, “Made by Francisco Martínez, notary of the Holy Office,” points to the artist’s high standing and social aspirations and proves that he did not disparage this type of intimate commission.


From exhibition Archive of the World, 2022 (for more information see the catalogue entry by Ilona Katzew in the accompanying publication, cat. no. 20, pp. 118–24)
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Bibliography

  • Katzew, Ilona, ed. Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex; New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2017.
  • Katzew, Ilona, ed. Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex; New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2017.
  • Katzew, Ilona, ed. Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500–1800: Highlights from LACMA’s Collection. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York: DelMonico Books/D.A.P., 2022.
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Exhibition history

  • Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500–1800 Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 12, 2022 - October 30, 2022