This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
“By being inflated,” Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa has written, “[Fernando] Botero’s characters and objects become light and serene, achieving a primordial and innocuous state.” Such words aptly describe the artist’s Arzobispo de un año de edad, whose titular protagonist conforms to Botero’s characteristic style of corpulent figures with fleshy curves. With his round, ruddy cheeks and pudgy fingers extended in blessing, the weight of the archbishop creates soft puckers in the pink pillow and luminescent sheets upon which he rests. Indeed, although wearing the official insignia of his profession, the young clergyman is little more than an innocent toddler, whose flowing white vestments doubly evoke a sumptuous baptismal gown.
Though most frequently recognized for his propensity for ample proportions, Botero often captures his figures in a child-like manner. By literally infantilizing his subjects, the artist thus satirizes the culture and conventions of traditional society, albeit from a gentle perspective and with a largely benign reproach. Inverting the age of his characters has also allowed Botero to transform such art historical precedents as Leonardo’s La Gioconda, his Mona Lisa, Age Twelve (1959) sparking a maelstrom of commentary when it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1961.
In contrast to the brushy quality of Mona Lisa, Age Twelve, the painting Arzobispo de un año de edad exemplifies the smooth and polished tones of Botero’s mature canvases. Yet, although created nearly ten years apart, both canvases demonstrate Botero’s predilection for Renaissance themes. Between 1951 and 1954, the painter lived in Europe, studying in Madrid and traveling to Paris and throughout Italy. His extensive study of art history is revealed in his various homages to Italian, Dutch, and Spanish masterpieces, as well as his tendency to explore Renaissance themes, and in particular, Catholic imagery. Depicting saints, virgins, Madonnas, and members of the liturgy, such subjects further reference the artist’s parochial school education in his native Medellín, Colombia.
Susanna Temkin, PhD, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
1 Mario Vargas Llosa, “Botero: A Sumptuous Abundance,” in Making Waves (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011), 257.