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Anonymous (Peruvian 18th Century)
Anonymous (Peruvian 18th Century)

America Nursing Spanish Noble Boys

Anonymous (Peruvian 18th Century)
America Nursing Spanish Noble Boys
inscribed 'Donde se ha visto en el Mundo, Lo que aqui estamos mirando, Los Hijos propeios gimiendo, Y los Extraños mamando.' (Where in the world has one seen what one sees here... Her own children lie groaning and she suckles strangers.)
oil on canvas
34½ x 25½ in. (87.5 x 65 cm.)
Painted circa 1770.
Dennis Osburne, Montevideo (prior to 1959).
The Estate of Michael Gloeckner, West Cornwall, Connecticut.
Private collection, Hartford, Connecticut.
G. Kubler & M. Soria, Art and Architecture of Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominions, 1500-1800, Pelican History of Art, Baltimore, 1959, no. 179 b.(illustrated).
K. Mills & W. B. Taylor, eds., Colonial Spanish America: A Documentary History, Scholarly Resources, Wilmington, 1998, p. 341 (illustrated).
K. Mills, W. B. Taylor & S. L. Gragam, eds., Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, Scholarly Resources, Wilmington, 2002, plate 16 (illustrated in color) and p. 396 (illustrated).
B. Premo, Children of the Father King: Youth, Authority and Legal Minority in Colonial Lima, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2005.
B. Premo, Misunderstood Love: Children and Wet Nurses, Creoles and Kings in Lima's Enlightenment, forthcoming in the Colonial Latin America Review.

Lot Essay

The movement of the figures, the informal posture of the Inca lord with crossed legs, and the swooping lines of the decoration around the inscription place this exquisite painting well into the eighteenth century. Perhaps it was created shortly before the Túpac Amaru rebellion of the early 1780s, a violent and complex Andean struggle that pitted Indian communities against each other or against their leaders in alliance with Creole (American-born Spanish) elites, as well as native Andeans against colonial elites of all kinds.

The painting expresses a popular identity and anguished lament of the Creole elite during the Bourbon reforms of the second half of the eighteenth century: they invoke their Americanness through association with a glorious Amerindian past, while decrying the privileges of peninsular Spanish appointees at the expense of the sons of America. Judging by their complexions and costumes, the children pressing in on America's throne are Creoles, Mestizos and Afromestizos. Two Andean noble couples attend below. But at their feet, America's naked Indian lies abandoned and hungry, in spite of the bountiful garden all around. They all watch as two peninsular Spanish boys in fashionable European outfits nurse at America's breasts. "Where in the world has one seen what one sees here...," asks the rhetorical inscription, "Her own children lie groaning and she suckles strangers." (Dónde se ha visto en el Mundo lo que aquí estamos mirando . . . Los hijos propeios gimiendo y los Extraños mamando.)

As historian Bianca Premo has emphasized, this artist's portrayal of a motherland abandoning its own children would have resonated with a Creole elite often reared by non-white women. But the painting captures even more powerfully the Creoles' sentiments of indignation and Americanness. Such feelings were expressed with particular vehemence by Creoles in Spanish America when inspection tours (visitas) were carried out by high peninsular officials appointed by the king to raise revenues and otherwise reform administrative procedures in the name of good order and efficiency, largely to the advantage of the Spanish Crown. Criticism of this kind and scattered rebellions accompanied the inspection tours to New Spain in the 1760s and to New Granada in 1780-81. The visita to the Viceroyalty of Peru headed by José Antonio de Areche which began in 1777 was particularly notorious, thus making 1777-1780 a likely date for this visual expression. It was the moment before the violent eruption of the Túpac Amaru rising, before Peruvian Creoles were jolted from their comfortable association of America and themselves with an indigenous past.

Kenneth Mills
Toronto, September 2005


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