Vision from the Venerable Mother Juana de Jesús María (Siglo XVIII) by CamargoColonial Museum
Mystical experiences were frequent in the religious communities of the colonial era, both in Europe and in America. Nuns and their confessors recorded these experiences more or less freely, since Council of Trent (1545-1563) reform so decreed.
Painting was, among others, a medium in which a testimony of mystical events was left. Such is the case of this oil on canvas that shows the vision of the venerable Mother Juana de Jesús María, in which appear to her the Virgin, the Child and Saint Joseph.
The experience is narrated in two texts: Nueva Maravilla de la Gracia, descubierta en la vida de la venerable madre Sor Juana de Jesús Mária Monja del gravíssimo convento de Santa Clara de Burgos, written in 1676 by Francisco de Ameyugo; and in Vida que de su mano escribió la venerable madre Gabriela de san José, dating from the early eighteenth century.
Mother Gabriela, a Discalced Carmelite, entered Purísima Concepción, a convent placed in Úbeda, Spain, in 1649. In her time, she was recognized for her exemplary life. Her text narrates a mystical episode of another nun, who was seen then as a life model, with the purpose of making the fact known in a society obsessed with religion.
Because Mother Gabriela mentions Juana de Jesús María in her text, she is represented in the painting wearing the Discalced Carmelites dress: brown habit, white cape and black veil. However, the venerable Juana belonged to the convent of Saint Clair of Burgos, Spain.
Kneeling before the characters of her vision, Mother Juana gazes upward while extending both arms towards Christ Child. The disposition of his body denotes the amazement she feels.
Standing and guiding a donkey with the halter, we see Saint Joseph, who leads the group of divine figures present on the scene. The saint wears a short green tunic and an ocher-colored cloak. Two iconographic elements confirm the identity of the character: the black wide hat that covers his head and the wooden stick that he holds in his left hand. Despite the presence of the nun, his gaze is directed towards the Virgin.
Seated on the donkey's back and covered with a wide blue cloak typical of her iconography, we see the Virgin, who holds a naked Baby Jesus in her hands. Slight halos of light surround the heads of the mother and the Child who, located in the center of the composition, occupy a higher place than the other characters. These aspects of the representation emphasize the importance of Mary and her son.
The Virgin extends her arms towards the nun, as she asks to carry the Child. Responding to the request, the little boy directs his eyes and arms towards Mother Juana.
In consideration of how Saint Joseph, the Virgin and the Child are organized in the vision of Mother Juana, the painter decided to represent them in the scene of the flight into Egypt, narrated in the Gospel of Matthew. There it is referred the departure of the family to Egypt, fleeing the persecution decreed by Herod, who, fearful of losing his sovereignty due to the announced birth of the King of the Jews, orders the execution of children under two years of age.
At the moment when the vision of Juana de Jesús María occurs, the three characters were heading towards an inn that can be seen on the left side of the composition. In its vicinity, we see two shepherds surprised by the arrival of the Holy Family. The prayerful position of one of them helps to emphasize the importance of the central characters.
During the colonial period, artworks were not usually signed, so stand out on this canvas the painter's signature —which in this case corresponds to his surname— and the date: “Camargo pinsebat 1717”. From this, it is inferred that the artist of the canvas may have lived between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when he composed the painting.
María Constanza Toquica Clavijo
Manuel Amaya Quintero
Anamaría Torres Rodríguez
María Isabel Téllez Colmenares
Paula Ximena Guzmán López
Tanit Barragán Montilla
CommunicationsAndrea Valentina Bastidas Cano