Before the spread of photography, notable personalities of the 19th century turned to artists to capture their image with a paintbrush. This ensured they made their mark and endured in the memory of their descendants.
"Portrait of Doña Teresa Pliego" was painted by Felipe Santiago Gutiérrez during his time as a professor at the Literary Institute of Toluca.
Looking at the objects that surround doña Teresa, it is possible to imagine the textures of the drape, her dress, and her silk shawl. The skill of the brush creates fine, detailed, and tangibly smooth fabrics that reflect the social status of their owner.
As well as denoting extravagance, other objects uphold a certain meaning and history. For example, the clock represents the passing of time and the brevity of life.
The necklace was later modified by another artist to be more visible around the entire neck. The intention was also to make the pearls appear larger to observers than the ones originally painted by Santiago Gutiérrez, emphasizing the character's importance.
Doña Teresa Pliego's posture and facial expression transmit a sense of dignity and seriousness. She belonged to a family that owned multiple ranches in what is now the State of Mexico, which were important agricultural production units during the 19th century.
The role of the painter was not only to depict subjects realistically, but also to produce a portrait that brought across some of their personality traits. And this was always to be done within the conventional limits of the Academy.
Doña Teresa Pliego by Felipe Santiago GutiérrezMuseo Soumaya.Fundación Carlos Slim
Based on a text by Francisco Escorza in the monthly magazine: "Rostros en la Colección de Museo Soumaya" (Faces in the Soumaya Museum Collection), August 2018. Soumaya Museum, Carlos Slim Foundation.