José de Alcibar (1730-1803)
José de Alcibar (1730-1803)

Mater Dolorosa

José de Alcibar (1730-1803)
Mater Dolorosa
inscribed 'O vos ómnes qui transítis per víam, atténdite et vidéte: Si est dólor sícut dólor méus.' (along the lower edge) faintly inscribed by an unknown hand 'Propiedad de Dolores Topete y Bustillo, legado por su tía, Da. Juana Bustillo y Pary, Sanlucar Barrda 21 Febrero 1891" (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
36 5/8 x 28 ½ in. (93 x 72.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1775.
Dolores Topete y Bustillo.
Juana Bustillo y Pary, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, Spain.
Galería Caylus, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Enschede, Rijkmuseum Twenthe, De Nieuwe Smaak: de kunst van het verzamelen in de 21ste eeuw, 17 January – 21 August 2016, p. 59, no. 7 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte: Si est dolor sicut dolor meus[1]

Painter José de Alcíbar’s artistic legacy includes his numerous religious images such as those commissioned by various confraternities, churches or cathedrals in Nueva España; his casta paintings that describe eighteenth-century Mexico’s exceedingly hierarchical society through a complex system of racial classification; his elaborate portraits of young women entering convents known as monjas coronadas; and his many portraits of the thriving city’s elites. One of the most sought after and prosperous artists of his time, Alcíbar, was also one of the founding members of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos in 1784.

The portrayal of, as well as the devotion of the faithful to the Holy Virgin Mary as Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowful Mother), dates back to the Church’s beginnings. Through the centuries the Church had codified her representation through the use of symbols or signifiers such as color, posture, and other visual elements that emphasized her prominent status and promoted dogma faithfully. Alcíbar’s remarkably innovative yet somber portrayal of the Mater Dolorosa is attired as a well-to-do matron in contemporary eighteenth-century Mexico; she also wears jewelry, perhaps following the plethora of traditional Baroque paintings and gilded polychrome wood sculptures that had been popular in Seville and would have been known by the elites. But most significantly, she is endowed with great pathos. The Virgin’s palpable humanity elicits empathy from those who behold her image. Her profound suffering is evident in her agonizing countenance with head slightly turned to the right, hands in prayer and a dagger that pierces her breast.

Margarita J. Aguilar, Doctoral candidate, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

1 From a liturgical chant for Holy Week: “all you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see: if there be any sorrow like my sorrow,” as Mary suffers at the foot of the cross. The original Latin does not make use of diacritical marks as in inscription on painting.

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