Saint Francis Solano (Siglo XVII) by Unknown artistSanta Clara Museum
Located in one of the altarpieces on the western wall of the former church of Santa Clara, this painting is dated in 1652. According to various researchers, the altarpiece to which the work is attached was built that same year, commissioned by María Arias de Ugarte, benefactress of the convent.
Although at first glance it seems simple, this oil painting is in fact a very particular piece: two different iconographies converge in it. Initially, it represented Saint Francis of Assisi, who is identified by his brown habit girded with the Franciscan cord, by the stigmata —Christ’s wounds transmitted to the saint as a reward for his faith— and by the crucifix he carries in his right hand.
The presence of birds is another of the attributes that usually accompany this saint. These animals symbolize his ascetic life and the deep bond he had with nature. In the stories of his life it is said, for example, that he domesticated some turtledoves that were going to be sacrificed. These, later, nested in his convent. Furthermore, according to tradition, the saint of Assisi spoke the language of these animals, whom he addressed in the so-called Preaching of the Birds, in the city of Bevagna.
As was usual in the colonial period, the canvas was repainted. This was done to create a new iconography from a previous work, which allowed saving time and economic resources. In the specific case of this painting, the new representation went on to portray Francisco Solano, a 16th century Spanish Franciscan saint who preached in the south of the American continent.
To modify the image, the stigmata and the birds were covered with paint and the so-called miracle of the bull, performed by Solano, was added to the scene on the lower left side. As it is told, the saint appeased through prayer an enraged wild bull that was frightening the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, in present-day Argentina.
In 1986, thanks to a restoration process, the original identity of the depicted man was discovered. The two moments in the history of this painting were left uncovered to have evidence of the transformations that colonial canvases used to go through.
María Constanza Toquica Clavijo
Manuel Amaya Quintero
Anamaría Torres Rodríguez
María Isabel Téllez Colmenares
Paula Ximena Guzmán López
Tanit Barragán Montilla
Valentina Bastidas Cano