Arts & Entertainment

Portrait of Portuguese duchess praised by Sor Juana up for auction in Uruguay

By Concepcion M. Moreno

Montevideo, May 24 (EFE).- A miniature portrait painting of a Portuguese noblewoman who won the praises of 17th-century luminary Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is set to go up for auction this week in Uruguay.

The intimate piece (used at that time only to commemorate the promise of marriage or as a family keepsake) measuring 9 centimeters by 7.4 cm shows a young Maria de Guadalupe of Lencastre, sixth Duchess of Aveiro (1630-1715).

The portrait shows a face more similar to the one seen at the Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in the Spanish province of Caceres than the portraits of her on display at Madrid’s Prado Museum or Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.

The latter two are the best-known portraits of Maria de Guadalupe, a highly cultured noblewoman who was praised in the highest terms (“claro honor de las mujeres”) by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican Hieronymite nun and philosopher and poet of the Baroque period.

The miniature up for auction in Uruguay features a partially legible inscription on the back with the duchess’s name and the words, “mi madre,” leading experts to conclude that it almost certainly belonged to Joaquin Ponce de Leon, one of her three children and the seventh Duke of Arcos.

“Uruguay is a market that regularly surprises you with the appearance of pieces of this (level of) quality,” Sebastian Zorrilla, director of Zorrilla Subastas and the person in charge of Wednesday’s auction, told Efe.

He noted the frequent exchanges between Spain and Latin America and said “families really came with everything, particularly in times of war.”

The piece by an anonymous artist, which has a starting price of $6,000, is part of a lot that consists of the collection of Elina Gallinal Castellanos de Eguiluz, a member of a distinguished Uruguayan family.

Another member of that family, Federico Galceran Bonasso, told Efe in a phone interview that the collection belonged to an aunt of his grandmother’s who died childless and that the family decided to auction off her artwork.

But he said he is unsure how this oil on copper portrait miniature ended up in his family, a piece that he had always seen hanging on the wall at his great-aunt’s house.

“My great-grandfather (Alejandro Gallinal Heber) had very close ties to Spain” and personally knew literary figures such as Miguel de Unamuno, Jacinto Benavente, Jose Maria Peman and Gregorio Marañon,” Galceran Bonasso said.

Studies on Maria de Guadalupe of Lencastre have revealed that she studied six languages, had a library of more than 4,000 books on a variety of topics and an art collection with works by El Greco and Luca Giordano.

She also helped extend the Catholic faith by funding missions and missionaries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region.

Although virtually unknown today, the portrait’s “historical quality” is noteworthy and its artistic value is “exceptional,” Zorrilla told Efe.

“It’s really a museum piece. I hope it sparks the interest of some Spanish institution, some museum or some collector,” he added. EFE


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