Friday, June 08, 2018

Divine brushwork

Finally got to see a show I missed at LACMA, now at the Met, "Painted in Mexico, 1700-1790: Pinxit Mexici." At first I was tickled pink by the lush religious allegories. What a dreamboat is Jesus in Miguel Cabreras' "Divine Spouse," one of several mystically erotic paintings for convents. Hidden among the flowers are symbols of the crucifixion, though, and if you look closely you'll notice healed scars on his hands. The hearts of faithful nuns compose the crown and scepter the angels are presenting to him as he holds his conjugal, white flowering lily. Other allegories
are similarly dense and fleshly; disembodied hearts, His and ours, abound. And then there's Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose appearance in Mexico was recognized by the Vatican in 1754, but not the miraculous provenance of the eponymous image. This didn't stop human painters from depicting what must have happened; we saw an anonymous copy of an original perhaps by Cabrera misleadingly entitled "God the Father Painting the Virgin of Guadalupe." Clearly it's the whole Trinity at work! Of course there was more than religious painting in colonial Mexico.
A room of grand portraits showed its gentry (including clerical gentry) decked out like folks back in Spain. Sometimes the genres merged, as in this work by Juan Rodríguez Juárez depicting Saint Rose of Lima (the New World's first canonized saint) and a donor. The caption notes that the donor's luxurious get-up includes an "elaborately embroidered huipil (indigenous tunic)," suggesting "pride in the land." I'll leave the awkward question of bejeweled fashion and Catholicism to decadent "Heavenly Bodies," but all this white Christian conquest of the New World gave me
pause - not that Protestants weren't doing the same thing in these parts. (Our Jesus is lily-white, as is the "Christian nationalism" of our marauder president's most enraptured supporters.) Tucked in a corridor between rooms was this revealing shocker, "Allegory of the Spanish Monarchy with the Kingdoms of Mexico and Peru," whose central figure is a personification of a matronly America. Its caption: Where in the world has one seen / what one sees here? / Her own sons lie groaning / while foreigners are suckling. This America is whiter than the Virgen!

No comments: