Virgin and Child with Jesuit Saints

Mechanics Gallery
Virgin and Child with Jesuit Saints, 1565-97. Pedro de Vargas.
Casa de Murillo. La Paz, Bolivia.

The painter of the central image of this portable shrine, Pedro de Vargas (b. 1553), was one of the many known Jesuit architects and painters in Spanish America. Some Jesuits were expressly sent to the colonies because of their artistic talents, an early example being Bernardo Bitti (b. 1548), an Italian painter and sculptor who worked in the Viceroyalty of Perú in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He performed the essential services of decorating churches throughout Perú with paintings and sculptures, and in doing so, trained painters like Vargas, who worked as his assistant.

The decision by religious orders to dispatch European-trained artists and architects to Spanish America yielded its intended result: these artists and architects, who crisscrossed the colonies, helped transplant European styles to the New World. And with the Catholic Church and the religious orders as their patrons, they likely faced fewer of the economic uncertainties of other emigrating artists. After Pedro de Vargas created the central image, it may have been later fashioned into this small and delicately painted triptych for another Jesuit, because it shows the Virgin and Child flanked with saints important to the Jesuit order, including its founder, Saint Ignatius Loyola. The triptych, which could be compactly closed, also seems a fitting form for a peripatetic priest.



De Mesa, José and Teresa Gisbert. 1991. La Pintura en los Museos de Bolivia. La Paz: Producciones Cima.

Bayón, Damián and Murillo Marx. 1992. History of South American Colonial Art and Architecture. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa

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