Miguel Cabrera (1695-1768)
The Immaculate Conception with Saints Anne and Joaquim
signed and dated 'Michael Cabrera fecit Ao. do 1756" (lower center)
oil on canvas
3318 x 24 in. (84.2 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1756.
Eman L. Beck and Mary Payne Beck collection, Mexico City (acquired circa 1915) and later Tucson Arizona (1940-1960).
W. K. Newcomb collection, Ontario (by descent from the above circa 1960).
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Lot Essay

Soon after the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-1523) Hernán Cortés petitioned King Charles V to send the religious orders in order to convert the various indigenous groups. The Franciscans were the first to arrive from Spain followed by the others such as the Carmelites, Jesuits, and Augustinians, all devoted to the propagation of the cult of the Immaculate Conception.1 Images of the Virgin, either prints and even paintings from Spain brought by the friars served to train a native class of artists who could copy faithfully the sacred iconography.2 And, although the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception was declared patroness of the Spanish dominions only in 1760, for centuries prior, numerous artists both in Spain and its overseas colonies produced countless representations of her iconic image commissioned by the Church and the elite classes. Mary, the Immaculate Conception was also the Church’s most potent force, or emblem of victory, against evil and heresy, especially during the Protestant revolt in Europe—and, in the New World, against idolatry and conversion of the native peoples.
One of the most accomplished painters in eighteenth-century Mexico, Miguel Cabrera, was in constant demand by Church authorities such as Archbishop of Mexico Manuel José Rubio y Salinas and the Jesuits from whom he received many commissions; as well, as the elite classes. His considerable artistic production includes religious and secular paintings; portraiture such as a posthumous portrait of Sor Juan Inés de la Cruz; and a large series of casta paintings. A man of letters, Cabrera published an account of the Virgin of Guadalupe with the Colegio de Saint Ildefonso press in 1756.3
In Cabrera’s moving composition, the Virgin is amongst supporters, both in heaven and earth. The impressive celestial retinue includes the seated Holy Trinity dressed in white to emphasize the Virgin’s purity; fluttering cherubs and archangels also pay homage to her virtues; and a large gathering of Jesuit friars who raise their voices in song. Also witness to this sacred manifestation, are the Virgin’s elderly parents Joachim and Anne from whom, a white lily, another symbol of Mary’s immaculacy, flourishes. Saints Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola, fervent advocates of the Immaculate Conception, seem to be in discourse. And as if to inspire veneration of this wondrous image of the Virgin, Loyola directs his gaze to the faithful who look upon it.
M.J. Aguilar, Ph.D.

Post Lot Text

1 D. Pierce, “New Spain: Metamorphosis in Spanish Colonial Art,”Cambios: The Spirit of Transformation in Spanish Colonial Art (Albuquerque: Santa Barbara Museum of Art & the University of New Mexico Press, 1992) 74.
2 J. Gutiérrez Haces, “Purísima Concepción,” Cristóbal de Villalpando, ca. 1649-1714, J. Gutiérrez Haces, P. Angeles, C. Bargellini, R. Ruiz Gomar (México: Fomento Cultural Banamex, 1997) 232.
3 G. A. Bailey, Art of Latin America, (London: Phaidon Press, Ltd., 2011) 418.

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