The Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe)

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The Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe)

Mexico, circa 1698
Paintings
Oil on canvas on wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl (enconchado)
Unframed: 39 × 27 1/2 in. (99.1 × 69.9 cm) Framed: 49 × 37 1/2 in. (124.46 × 95.25 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund (M.2011.1)
Currently on public view:
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1 MAP IT
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1

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Provenance

Possibly José María Ybarra Gutiérrez de Caviedes (1816–1878), Seville, 1840s; by inheri - tance to his son Luis Ybarra González (1849–1916), Seville, 1878; by inheritance to his son Nicolás Ybarra y G...
Possibly José María Ybarra Gutiérrez de Caviedes (1816–1878), Seville, 1840s; by inheri - tance to his son Luis Ybarra González (1849–1916), Seville, 1878; by inheritance to his son Nicolás Ybarra y Gómez-Rull (1894–1966), Seville; gifted to his son Nicolás Ybarra Llosent (1931–2015), Seville, 1960; transferred to his wife Julia Moreno Pidal (b. 1936), Seville; Derek Johns Ltd., London, 2010; LACMA, 2011.
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Label

Among the most dazzling paintings invented in New Spain were those inlaid with mother-of-pearl, known as enconchados.

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Among the most dazzling paintings invented in New Spain were those inlaid with mother-of-pearl, known as enconchados. Conceived in the traditional manner of Western painting, the works include shell fragments that reference a range of Asian decorative arts, which flowed in through various trade networks. Pearls had also been associated with the legendary riches of the Americas since the conquest. Their materiality connoted imperial power, ostentation, and wealth. The genre reached its apogee from roughly 1680 to 1700, and Miguel González was among its most salient practitioners. Aside from individual devotional pictures, many enconchados were created as multipanel series portraying the lives of the Virgin, Christ, and various saints—the iridescent nacre helping to suffuse the works with a sense of the divine. With their mixed technique, the opalescent enconchados stood at the juncture of imperial vision, global trade, religious fervor, and colonial invention.

This work depicts the famous Virgin of Guadalupe placed atop an eagle perched on a cactus, Mexico City’s legendary coat of arms. She is surrounded by four roundels that narrate her three apparitions to the Native seer Juan Diego in 1531 and the moment when he unveiled her miraculously imprinted image on his cape before Bishop Juan de Zumárraga (r. 1530–48). Supporting each corner medallion, fluttering angels impart a sense of playful dynamism to the composition, echoing the flickering shimmer of the inlaid shells. The lacquer-imitation frame, with its densely packed ornamentation, constitutes an integral element of the work. Painted and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, it combines floral motifs and birds with Marian symbols—including those of the Litany of the Virgin. Elaborate frames were highly valued and could often command higher prices than the paintings themselves.

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Bibliography

  • 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.

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