Acquisition of Latin-American and American Paintings in Philadelphia

1. Anonymous, Peru
King Luis I of Spain on Horseback, c. 1724
Oil on Canvas - 202 x 155 cm
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Photo : Philadelphia, Museum of Art

10/3/13 - Acquisitions - Philadelphia Museum of Art - The Museum of Art in Philadelphia received several donations in the past few months of Latin-American and American works.

Donated by Roberta and Richard Huber in 2012, four paintings - three of which are anonymous - reflect 18th century Colonial art in South America. The first, by a Peruvian artist, is an equestrian portrait of Luis I of Spain (1707-1724) who reigned only seven months before dying from smallpox (ill. 1). His likeness was no doubt executed after the announcement of his ascension to the throne but before the news of his death had reached Peru. Archival documents evoke a representation of the king astride a horse which could correspond to this one, painted in the city of Potosi (formerly Upper Peru) in 1725 for the "king’s oath", a ceremony celebrating the crowning of each king. The abundance of gold, the bright red and the flowing drapery, the movement of the clouds and even the horse, remind us that the 18th century marks the height of portraits more concerned with ostentation than memory of the figure. This young and ephemerous king ruled long enough to earn the nickname, "Well loved, also "Generous" and was portrayed by more familiar artists such as, Jean Ranc.
The other donations to the museum are religious : a Peruvian one illustrates Saint Anthony of Padua Preaching before Pope Gregory IX and is part of a series on the life of the saint, probably produced for a Franciscan convent or church (ill. 2). Gregory IX after hearing Saint Anthony preach considered him as the "Testament Ark" and canonized him only one year after his death, in 1232. The pope was a protector of the Franciscan order, as shown by the rope below his alb, in this painting where the attractive decorative treatment of the walls and floor combine to blur the perspective.

2. Anonymous, Peru
Saint Anthony of Padua Preaching
before Pope Gregory IX
, 18th century
Oil on Canvas - 100 x 165 cm
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Photo : Philadelphia, Museum of Art

3. Anonymous, Bolivia
The House in Nazareth, late 18th century
Oil on Canvas - 61 x 80.6 cm
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Photo : Philadelphia, Museum of Art

A Bolivian canvas evokes The House in Nazareth, that is Christ’s childhood (ill. 3). The artist underscores Jesus’ human nature by showing the everyday life of the Holy Family in a composition including both the inside of the house and a landscape : Joseph, the carpenter is teaching Him his trade (in this case, more like cabinetmaking). The Virgin is seating close by, with embrodery work on her lap. Her crossed arms show that she "kept all of these things and meditated on them in her heart", while the dove of the Holy Spirit and even the picturesque detail of the angels helping to carry the boards reminds us of the Child’s divine nature. There is a very similar scene in a painting by Miguel de Samaniego at the Museo de Arte Colonial in Quito. Many images of Christ’s childhood appear in the Spanish colonies, inspired by engravings by the Flemish artist, Jerome Wierix (1553-1619).

4. José Cortés de Alcocer (active circa 1750 - 1803)
Our Lady of the Rushes with
Captain Joaquín Elorrieta
Oil on Canvas - 95 x 64 cm
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Photo : Philadelphia, Museum of Art

5. N. C. Wyeth, American (1882-1945)
The Archery Contest, 1929.
Oil on Canvas - 144 X 111 cm
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Photo : Philadelphia, Museum of Art

The fourth painting in the group is by José Cortés de Alcocer, an Equatorian artist, from the Quito school, who had a flourishing studio and worked for the elite. He represented the Virgin of the Rushes gracefully surrounded by small angels and flowers. The patron, flattened against the foreground with hands joined in prayer, is Joaquín Elorrieta who served the king in various Spanish colonies (ill. 4). The composition was inspired by an engraving of Our Lady of the Rushes in Irún, a 12th century Romanic sculpture found apparently among the rushes in a swamp near Irún, Spain.
The severity of the statue is masked by the rich robes provided by the faithful. Irún might be the home town of the patron, thus explaining the choice of the iconography. The painter, known also for a Virgin of the Apocalypse which is less static than this one, chose to multiply the roses and other flowers rather than the rushes, which seems logical.

In concluding, we would add that in early March the museum also received a painting by the famous American illustrator, N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) which was hung in the galleries a few days ago (ill. 5). The work was donated by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company. The subject is the archery contest which revealed Ulysses to Penelope and her suitors. This is one of the sixteen compositions designed by Wyeth in 1929 to illustrate the translation of The Odyssey by George Herbert Palmer. The artist sold the series to a private collector in 1930 ; it was then scattered and the whereabouts of most of the paintings are today unknown.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 19 mars 2013

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : The Louvre Bookshop : the RmnGP Reassures Publishers

Next article in News Items : A Bronze by William Theed for the Metropolitan Museum