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.
José de Páez, favored by several convents, seems to have made a specialty of the genre. He created numerous badges with a near identical figure of the Immaculate Conception crowned by the Trinity and surrounded by saints. A number of them also include an elaborate decorative border of flowers and winged cherub heads. The inclusion of Saint John of Nepomuk on the lower right is a significant detail. The fourteenth-century saint from Prague was known for safeguarding the seal of confession and was especially promoted by the Jesuits. Leading up to and following the dramatic expulsion of the order from New Spain in 1767 by Charles III, images of the saint proliferated among Jesuit sympathizers as a form of protest. His inclusion in several contemporary badges may signal the nuns’ tacit support of their confessors and the Society of Jesus.
From exhibition Archive of the World, 2022 (for more information see the catalogue entry by Ilona Katzew in the accompanying publication, cat. no. 22, pp. 118–24)