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Saint Alexius

José Juárez1653

Museo Nacional de Arte

Museo Nacional de Arte

In this work, José Juárez depicts Saint Alexius on a pedestal, conferring a sculptural quality on him. On either side of the saint are various objects alluding to the worldly life full of riches, symbolized by a sword, coins, jewels and other luxurious items that the saint rejected during his days on earth. The back part of the composition is dominated by extraordinary architectural forms which serve to divide the inner space from the outer one. In both areas, the artist deployed, on successive planes, different scenes from the saints life. Alexius was born in Rome, and his father, a senator called Eufemianus, forced him to marry. However, having decided to remain chaste, he fled his house on the day of the wedding, sharing out his riches among the poor. He ended up in the city of Edessa in Syria, where he lived as a beggar for seventeen years. Later, he returned to the city of his birth and lived there for many years under the stairs of the house where he was born without being recognized by his family. Shortly before his death, he wrote a letter giving a detailed account of his penitent life. As he lay dying, Pope Innocent I was celebrating a mass, attended by Eufemianus, in a nearby church. Just then, a voice from heaven announced that Saint Alexius was dead, the bells of the city rang out, and the whole congregation came to witness the event, as can be seen in the left-hand part of the painting. They found the dead Alexius with the letter clenched in his stiffened fingers. This document could only be removed from the dead man’s grasp when the Pope blessed him and miraculously opened his hand, thus freeing the paper and revealing his identity. A church in honor of Saint Alexius was built on the site of his father's palace. This large-scale work was an object of Jesuit devotion, since Alexius was considered a paragon of the chaste life. It hung in the Casa Profesa (the headquarters of the Jesuit order in México), next to the painting of Saint Justus and Saint Pastor, also by José Juárez. This work passed to the MUNAL from the San Diego Viceregal Painting Gallery in the year 2000.

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Details

  • Title: Saint Alexius
  • Date Created: 1653
  • painter: José Juárez
  • Provenance: San Diego Viceregal Painting Gallery, 2000
  • Physical Dimensions: w3040 x h3850 mm (complete)
  • Original Spanish object note: En esta obra, José Juárez representó a san Alejo sobre un pedestal, otorgándole un carácter escultórico. A los lados del santo se aprecian diferentes objetos que aluden a la vida mundana plena de riqueza, simbolizada por una espada, monedas, joyas y otros útiles suntuarios, que el santo rechazó durante su existencia. El fondo de la composición está dominado por una extraordinaria arquitectura que permite dividir el espacio interior del exterior; en ambos el artista desplegó, a través de una sucesión de planos, las diferentes escenas que narran la vida del santo. Alexius nació en Roma, su padre, el senador Eufemiano, lo obligó a casarse; no obstante, decidido a mantenerse casto, huyó de su casa el día de la boda, distribuyendo sus riquezas entre los pobres. Su destino fue la ciudad de Edesa, en Siria, lugar en que vivió diecisiete años como un mendigo. Más tarde regresó a su ciudad natal y allí residió durante un largo periodo bajo las escaleras de la casa paterna sin ser reconocido por su familia. Poco antes de morir escribió en una carta los pormenores de su vida de penitencia y mientras expiraba, en una iglesia cercana, el Papa Inocencio I oficiaba una misa a la que asistía Eufemiano. En ese momento una voz desde el cielo declaró la muerte de san Alejo, las campanas de la ciudad se hicieron oír y todos los participantes acudieron a testificar el hecho, como se observa en la zona izquierda de la pintura. Lo encontraron muerto con la carta entre sus dedos crispados y tiesos, la cual le pudo ser retirada al momento que el sumo pontífice le dio la bendición y milagrosamente abrió su mano, liberando el papel y revelando su identidad. En este palacio se edificó tiempo después una iglesia en honor a san Alejo. Este cuadro de grandes dimensiones fue objeto de la devoción jesuíta, ya que Alejo era considerado un modelo de vida dedicada a la castidad. Estuvo colgado en la Casa Profesa al lado de la pintura Santos Justo y Pastor, también realizada por el pincel de José Juárez. Esta obra ingresó al MUNAL procedente de la Pinacoteca Virreinal de San Diego en el año 2000.
  • Original title: San Alejo
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA, http://www.munal.com.mx/rights.html
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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