Sunday, December 12 is the Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most important holidays in the Mexican calendar. According to tradition, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous peasant named Juan Diego four times in December of 1531. She was trying to use Juan Diego as an advocate to get a church built in her honor, but the local bishop wouldn’t believe the Indian’s story until Juan Diego provided physical proof. After the Virgin Mary’s final appearance on December 12, her image was miraculously imprinted on the cloak (called a tilma) that Juan Diego wore, in order to corroborate his story.
That cloak is the relic venerated today in a church built on the hill of Tepeyac, outside Mexico City, where Mary originally appeared to Juan Diego. Her protection of the diverse populations of Mexico—Indians and creoles, rich and poor—lead to fervent devotion, and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe remains a potent symbol of Mexican identity and culture even today.
The IMA is proud to highlight an important recent acquisition featuring the Virgin of Guadalupe. The painting was created in Mexico around 1700, and copies the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as she appears on the relic of Juan Diego’s cloak. The central image of the Virgin is embellished by symbolic elements and by narrative scenes in the four corners that illustrate her four appearances to Juan Diego.
The IMA’s Virgin of Guadalupe was also featured in a pair of ArtBabble videos: a conversation between IMA director Maxwell Anderson and curator Ronda Kasl about the painting’s history, and conservator Christina O’Connell’s discussion of its conservation treatment. See the videos below and learn more about this tremendous work.
Love this work? You can come see it in celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day this weekend. The painting is prominently displayed in the gallery, just in front of the elevators on the museum’s second floor, directly off Pulliam Great Hall.