Immaculate Conception with Saint Francis and Angels
signed 'N.s Enriq fecit' (lower right)
oil on copper panel
1918 x 1438 in. (48.6 x 36.5 cm.)
Private collection, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

The significant propagation of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and production of related images occurred during the Baroque period in Hapsburg Spain and throughout its various European kingdoms, as well as its expansive colonial territories in the Americas and Asia. This iconic rendering of the Holy Virgin was the Church’s most powerful visual emblem during the Counter-Reformation in response to the rise of Protestantism. The era, nevertheless, was one of great spiritual revival and saw the rise of a remarkable and exuberant artistic production of sacred images. Indeed the pictorial arts were ideal vehicles with which to convey religious themes while evoking fervor and piety that strictly adhered to the Catholic dogma. This representation of the Mother of God also became synonymous with the Church and enabled the Jesuits, Franciscans, and other religious orders to promulgate the faith in their global missionary zeal.
Executed by Nicolás Enríquez, this painting was probably destined for private devotion in a domestic setting. Enríquez, who was born in either Guadalajara or Mexico City in the early 1700s and was active from 1720 to 1775, is known for his impressive number of devotional images such as this one (M. B. Burke, Treasures of Mexican Colonial Painting, Davenport, Iowa, 1998, p. 78). As Manuel Toussaint has noted, Enríquez’s “reputation was high enough in his day” (M. Toussaint, Colonial Art in Mexico, Austin, 1967, p. 345). The young Virgin is resplendent with the golden rays of the sun; her dazzling white tunic denotes her purity and her flowing blue mantle represents her sacred status. Mary fulfills the prophesy in the Book of Revelation, “A woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars… The glittering stars symbolize the twelve patriarchs of the tribes of Israel as well as Christ’s apostles. Fluttering around her are cherubs who hold emblems of her many attributes such as the mirror, as Mary is the reflection of eternal light, and the rose and the lily of the valley which are mentioned in the Book of Solomon which allude to her grace and chastity. On the ground, by the enclosed garden which symbolizes her purity, is the saintly figure of Francis of Assisi, as the Franciscan Order was devoted to and fervently promulgated veneration of this holy icon of the Mother of God and humanity. The galleon entering the safety of a harbor refers ultimately to the Church and Christ’s apostle Peter, a fisherman, who is considered its first pope and charged with navigating his people to Salvation.

M.J. Aguilar, Ph.D.

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