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Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
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Fernando Botero (b. 1932)

Viaje místico

Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Viaje místico
signed and dated 'Botero 66' (lower right and on the reverse); titled 'Viaje místico' (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
55 x 65 in. (139.7 x 165.1 cm.)
Painted in 1966.
Rafael Alegría, San Juan.
Collection of Yvonne and Sergio Franchi, Las Vegas, Nevada.
By descent to the present owner.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza Latin American Art

Lot Essay

Painted in 1966, Viaje místico stems from the early period in Fernando Botero’s long, illustrious career, a time before the artist reached the international stardom he enjoys today. While not a universally recognized artist at the time, the young Botero was already garnering important critical attention. Living in New York City in the 1960s, Botero brazenly side stepped the movements then dominating the art scene there, namely Minimalism and Pop. Instead, he worked feverishly, alone, on his own unique form of figurative painting that the world would later come to know as Boteroismo. By 1961, the Museum of Modern Art in New York had taken notice of the renegade artist and bought its first Botero work—Mona Lisa, Age 12. In 1967, just a year after Viaje místico was painted, MOMA made its second significant Botero acquisition with The Presidential Family. MOMA would continue to support the artist in the coming years, including his work in six exhibitions between 1961 and 1977.
While a relatively young man at the time that he painted Viaje místico, Botero still had a rich lexicon of imagery and life experience to draw from for inspiration. Memories of the Baroque churches, colorful cobble stone streets and mountains surrounding his native Medellín, Colombia, began to find their way into his canvases in the 1960s and have reappeared there ever since. Botero’s personal Grand Tour of Europe in the 1950s also left an indelible mark on his imagination. After winning a competition in 1952 that afforded him enough money to travel abroad, Botero spent the next few years studying the Medieval, Renaissance and Modernist masters firsthand in the Prado, Louvre and Uffizi as well as the continent’s countless cathedrals. These encounters initiated Botero’s lifelong dialogue with the European canon of art history.
Viaje místico is a palimpsest of these varied experiences, not representing any one particular church or landscape, but rather layered memories of South America and Europe filtered through the artist’s imagination. At the center of the composition, a cramped village composed of portly homes and one soaring cathedral rise up from an undulating mountainous landscape. Against the black bulbous peaks, the bright red dress of a lone clergyman strikes a brilliant contrast. Venturing out on his own from this pictorially tightly-knit community, he appears to be on an auspicious journey, an idea underscored by the title of the work. Yet, Botero provides only the beginning of a narrative and asks us to fill in the details of where this precipitous path leads. Hovering above this surreal landscape are pink puffs of cotton candy clouds, adding further intrigue to the enigmatic scene. The overall palette is both striking and subdued, a hallmark of Botero’s early work that contrasts sharply with the more flamboyant colors of his later paintings.
Viaje místico has remained in the family of Sergio Franchi, one of the greatest entertainers of the 1960s and 70s, for decades. From the Ed Sullivan show to Carnegie Hall, from hits on the Billboard pop charts to performances for John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and many others in between, Franchi was an American sensation. Notably, his meteoric rise was not unlike that of his contemporary Fernando Botero. Franchi’s purchase of such a significant work by the painter thus seems a fitting tribute to each of their legacies.

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