Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Jesus

Brief tour through some details of the painting

By Santa Clara Museum

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (Siglo XVII) by Agustín García Zorro de UsecheSanta Clara Museum

Representations of mystical experiences of saints were among the most widespread in colonial visual culture. The scene of the ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Jesus that we see in this painting bought from the Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem in Bogotá, in 1976, belongs to this group. This scene is the most important amongst Teresian iconography. 

Saint Teresa of Avila, who gave herself the name of Teresa of Jesus, was a 16th-century Spanish Carmelite who emphasized the values of prayer and poverty, reformed the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and established several convents that consolidated under the Order of Discalced Carmelites. For this reason, she is represented wearing a chestnut tunic, a white cape and a scapular, a symbol of the devotion to Virgin Mary and of the wish to reach salvation. 

The scene of the ecstasy, one of the multiple mystical experiences that Teresa lived, was narrated by her in Libro de la Vida, a text with an autobiographical hint. The image of this canvas follows that account. On it we see a young angel who carries in his hands a spear or dart lit in a divine fire. The burning tip is directed towards the saint’s chest, who opens her arms and directs her gaze upwards. The dart that is about to pierce Teresa’s heart symbolizes God’s love. 

In the upper part of the image, accompanied by a cumulus of clouds and a golden light, is the figure of Christ who observes the saint. His open arms and his right hand are arranged in a blessing position. Beneath him, the white dove of the Holy Spirit spreads its wings. 

The image of Saint Teresa was reproduced in America on multiple occasions and was very present in colonial convent spaces. The representation of this scene had a wide diffusion. This was due to the life of the Spanish saint and her numerous moral writings, besides being a reference for feminine mysticism in the Colony, were consolidated as a model to be followed by women who opted for the religious life. 

In the old temple of Santa Clara, we also can see a wide diffusion of Teresian iconography in the pieces that are preserved today. Their presence is also associated with the first Poor Clare Sisters who inhabited the cloister: a sister and two nieces of Hernando Arias de Ugarte, founder of the convent. These three women initially professed in the Carmelite convent of Santafé. Later, when the Royal Convent of Santa Clara was founded, they changed their habit. 

Credits: Story


Museum Director 

María Constanza Toquica Clavijo 

 

Museology 

Manuel Amaya Quintero 

 

Curation 

Anamaría Torres Rodríguez 

María Isabel Téllez Colmenares 

 

Collection Management 

Paula Ximena Guzmán López 

 

Editorial 

Tanit Barragán Montilla 

 

Communications 

Andrea Valentina Bastidas Cano 

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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