Brooklyn Museum Acquires Rare 18th Century Portrait by Puerto Rican Artist Jose Campeche


The Brooklyn Museum announced that it has acquired a rare portrait painting by the Puerto Rican artist José Campeche from circa 1796, which depicts Doña María de los Dolores Gutiérrez del Mazo y Pérez on the occasion of her marriage to Spanish navy admiral Don Benito Pérez in San Juan.


The work has remained in Doña María’s family since it was painted, and has never been put on public display. The Brooklyn Museum’s board of trustees accessioned the work on October 18. It was acquired with funds from the sale of Vasily Vereshchagin‘s late-19th century painting “Crucifixion by the Romans” last year at Christie’s.

The museum’s press release offers some rich biographical details on the rare painting’s sitter:

Doña María de los Dolores was born in 1775 in Alicante, Spain. At age fifteen she sailed from Cadiz to San Juan with her mother and stepfather, a newly appointed sergeant major in the Puerto Rican division of the Spanish navy. At age twenty-one, she sat for Campeche, the island’s first major painter, who portrayed her at home wearing a white muslin chemise dress–then the height of European fashion–and matching diamond earrings and necklace. In her left hand Doña María holds a copy of the popular Spanish play, Manuel Bellosartes’s La fuerza del amor conyugal, and with her right she gestures toward two folded letters that identify her and her husband, who at the time was stationed in the Puerto Rican port city of Ponce. Two years later, at age twenty-three, Doña María would die while giving birth to the couple’s only child, a daughter.

The three-quarter portrait painting will make its public debut next year in “Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898,” an exhibition curated by the museum’s curator of European art, Richard Aste, which will travel to three other U.S. museums after its run at the Brooklyn Museum from September 20, 2013, to January 12, 2014.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.)

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