Anonymous (Peruvian, 18th century)
Anonymous (Peruvian, 18th century)
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Anonymous (Peruvian, 18th century)

Jesús, El Buen Pastor

Details
Anonymous (Peruvian, 18th century)
Jesús, El Buen Pastor
oil on canvas
35 ½ x 52 ½ in. (90.2 x 133.4 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Caracas.
Gift from the above to the present owner.

Lot Essay

The portrayal of Jesus as The Good Shepherd is one of the oldest symbolic representations of Christ, dating as far back as the 3rd century. This popular image of Jesus as a hard-working shepherd surely resonated both with common folk and clergy alike, for all were humble servants to the Lord. This specific subject in art is borrowed from the Gospel of John, in which Jesus addressed the Phariseees, stating that while others profess to know the path to righteousness, they are misguided “thieves and robbers,” where he is the gate for the sheep, and all who enter through him will be saved. Jesus goes on to say: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10: 11-12). A prophetic statement, here Christ not only suggests his life’s mission as a servant to the Lord, but he also foreshadows his own sacrifice.
The present painting depicts Jesus as a simple shepherd; barefoot and in modest clothes, with a satchel and staff tucked into his belt, he carries a lamb over his shoulder, while he looks up to the heavens. At his feet, are a flock of sheep among a verdant landscape, they graze on a bounty of flora—grass, flowers, and leaves. In the lower register, and also emanating from Jesus’ mouth, are references to the Gospel of John: Pastor bonus animam suam dat pro ovibus suis / cognosco oves meas et cognoscunt me meae “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep / I know my sheep and mine know me.” The central image adheres to typical representations of Christ as a modest shepherd, tending a flock of sheep. Unusual to this painting however are the scenes in the background. In the upper left register, an angel with a blazing sword of fire drives away a flock of sheep, that appear to have turned away from the Lord. The words Ite in ignem aeternum are pictured above, a reference to the Gospel of Matthew (25: 41) in which the sinful are sent to hell: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” In contrast to this, Jesus’ crucifixion is pictured in the upper right register. Quite vividly, blood spills from his wounds forming a river that leads out of the manicured garden and into the lush landscape below. The words Bibte ex eo omnes “Drink from it, all of you” are visible as the sheep below quench their thirst with Christ’s blood.
Likely executed in the 18th century by an anonymous artist active in the Viceroyalty of Peru, this kind of literal, highly didactic image would have found favor with the Catholic missionaries in the New World, tasked with the evangelization of the local population. The visual narrative would have held meaning to those perhaps illiterate or not proficient in Latin, while for those able to comprehend the text, it would have added value for quiet contemplation and spiritual devotion.
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