Juan Rodríguez Juárez was born into a family of exceptional painters; Antonio Rodríguez, his father, was his teacher and his older brother Nicolás, a priest, was also a noted artist. The artist was practicing his craft by the age of nineteen. Renowned during his lifetime as a painter of religious subjects for various seminaries and convents, the artist's oeuvre also includes his repertory of secular works such as this pastoral scene.
Dr. Marcus Burke, scholar on Mexican colonial art, has described this composition as enigmatic because the subject matter remains largely unknown. A lovely young woman is attended by two other women, one of whom, offers a casket of jewelry; to the figure's left stand a silver pitcher and a compote of fruit and, perhaps a change of clothes are depicted as well. The figure is seated in a fountain or bath and looks at us. Marcus suggests the story of Vertumnus and Pomona found in Ovid's Metamorphoses, as the source for this iconography but the Ovid classic does not make a reference to jewels, as Marcus points out. Another possibility may be an eighteenth-century depiction of Venus for a very religiously orthodox society where conventions required that modesty be observed--including in art. Nudes were not banned in colonial art and appeared in religious subjects such as images of Adam and Eve, but this image is a lovely conundrum defying a definitive explanation.