In the 1500’s in México an indigenous man and recent convert to Christianity was walking across a hillside in Tepeyac to attend mass. He was startled by a brilliant light and unearthly music. Before him appeared a vision of a beautiful, dark skinned woman who called him, “My son.” She also told him that she was Mary, mother of Jesús. She told him that she wanted a church built on this hillside and that Juan Diego should bring the message to the Bishop. It was very difficult for Juan Diego to request an audience with the Bishop but he eventually was able to talk to him. Unfortunately for Juan, The Bishop didn’t believe him and requested that he bring proof of the message from Mary before a church could be built.
After his audience with the Bishop, Juan tried to avoid the hillside and, for several days, he was successful but then an uncle of his became very sick. Once again, he had to rush across the hillside to bring a priest to his uncle’s side. As he crossed the hillside, the vision appeared to him and told him to pick the roses that were miraculously blooming where he had never seen roses growing before. He followed the visions request and gathered the roses up in his cloak and continued with his quest for the priest. He found himself before the bishop yet again but this time as he released the roses from his clothing, there was an image of the dark skinned virgin painted on his cloak. Thus giving the bishop proof that a church should be built on the hillside.
This was the same hillside that had been the very site of the Aztec temple to Tonantzin, “The Lunar Mother,” or the goddess Coatlicue, “The Mother of the Gods and Protector of Humanity.” Some historians believe that the name Guadaloupe comes from the indigenous name for the Mother of the Gods, Coatlicue. In either case, this is most likely an example of syncretism.
The Vatican recognized the miracle of Guadalupe in 1745. Today, millions of people gather in the church each December 12 to honour “ La Reina de Mexico.”
I was inspired to paint the Virgin by my many friends in Mexico. She is a very strong force in Latin culture and particularly so in Mexico. She was a very difficult project to paint because of all the expectations that come from her being an icon. There are things that have to be in the painting or she would be unrecognizable otherwise. In this sense, the art as such is very constrained. The picture at the left represents my first efforts to capture the essence of The Virgin of Guadalupe.
The painting at the left represents the final result. I hope that my Mexican friends are pleased by what I have captured in this work. I believe that I have captured the sense of compassion for all of humanity that she represents.
24″ x 30″, oil on canvas
Visit my web site to see more of my paintings.