Looking Into

Joachim of Fiore Shows the Portraits of Saint Dominic de Guzmán and Saint Francis of Assisi

Joachim of Fiore shows the portraits of Saint Dominic de Guzmán and Saint Francis of Assisi (1680) by Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (attributed)Colonial Museum

For a long time, it was thought that this painting was a self-portrait of Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos who, turning his back to the viewer and wearing a brown outfit, would be delivering two paintings to an Augustinian father.

Nevertheless, in the 20th century this wrong interpretation, based on the numerous myths surrounding the colonial painter, was rectified.

Thanks to various research, it was established that the true main character of this image is Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202), a Neapolitan Beatus who held the position of abbot of the Cistercian Order.

The religious man, who stares at the viewer making her (or him) a participant of the scene, is represented with tonsure —a circular shaving of the crown that symbolizes submission to God— and wearing a black robe.

In the forefront of the image, the abbot of Fiore is seen revealing, before five visibly surprised characters, the portraits of Saint Dominic de Guzmán and Saint Francis of Assisi.

The prodigious of the event is in the fact that Saint Dominic and Saint Francis were born a century after the monk.

According to the prophecy, this saints would be in charge of bringing the word of God all over the world.

For this reason, it is considered that the religious man predicted the birth of both saints, as well as the role that they would play as founders of the Dominican and Franciscan orders.

In the background, we see the representation of the city of Venice since, according to tradition, after showing the portraits, the abbot asked for them to be placed in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Saint Mark located in this Italian city.

However, neither the city nor the temple mentioned in the legend are accurately depicted in the painting.

Although the building in the canvas does not represent the real aspect of the Venetian cathedral, we know that it is indeed this temple, because on the facade we recognize Saint Mark the Apostle and the lion that symbolizes him.

In the main door of the cathedral, we see a detail that supports the abbot's prophecy.

Standing under the lintel, we see Saint Peter the Apostle —recognizable by the sword and the book he carries in his hands— and Saint Dominic de Guzmán —dressed in the robe of his order and holding a lily as a symbol of chastity.

Under the image of Saint Peter there is a Latin inscription that translates: ‘Through this door you can reach Jesus Christ’.

The phrase at the foot of Saint Dominic contrasts that first statement: ‘But through this one is easier’.

This second inscription alludes to the work of the religious orders as revitalizing agents of the Church and, especially, to their evangelizing role in the territories of the New World.

Credits: Story

Director of Museum: María Constanza Toquica Clavijo
Museology: Manuel Amaya Quintero
Curation: Anamaría Torres Rodríguez, Diego Felipe López Aguirre
Administration of collections: Paula Ximena Guzmán López
Editorial: Tanit Barragán Montilla
Communications: Juan Camilo Cárdenas Urrego

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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