The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (2024)


What did it mean for portrait images to generate recognition of early modern individuals as saints? Did images make sainthood visible through a person’s particularities or their conformity to perfect models? To be recognisable as an historical individual was not necessarily compatible with being recognised as a saint, either officially by Rome, or experientially by devotees. Early images of Quito’s most prominent candidate for sainthood, Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (1618–1645), throw into sharp relief the pressure that posthumous candidacy for sainthood brought to bear on portrait images, especially of women. Mariana’s imagery reconfigures the relationship among visibility, individuality and recognition that posed a common problem for aspiring saints’ portraits. Far from being transparent post-Tridentine propaganda, Mariana’s early iconography works against the grain of the portrait genre, creatively addressing the tensions between individual likeness and conformity to perfect models, and between concealing sainthood and making it visible.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (1)

Detail of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores, eighteenth century (plate 1).

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No one has ever seen a saint. For the saint remains invisible, not by chance, but in principle and by right. For who could see a saint in person [en personne], if no one [personne] can recognise the saint as such?1

Brief Encounter on a Soon-to-be-Sinking Ship

On a ship bound for Havana and thence for Spain in 1690, carrying with him a copy of a published sermon, a bulky volume of witness statements, and a portrait of his long-deceased aunt Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (1618–1645), Juan Guerrero de Salazar received a stinging rebuke from his aunt for keeping her—that is to say, her portrait—hidden. The purpose of Juan’s voyage from his and Mariana’s hometown of Quito was to have his aunt by marriage officially recognised as a saint,2 bringing to Rome the results of the initial diocesan inquiry (or proceso ordinario) on Mariana de Jesús’s reputation for sanctity in his capacity as the promoter of her cause for beatification.3 Juan’s older brother, José Guerrero de Salazar, in a statement given in 1725, described Mariana as appearing to her nephew (Juan) on a Thursday night two or three days out from Cuba, and demanding to be put on display: ‘Juan, how is it that you carry me thus locked away and forgotten, bearing me as a pilgrim; take me out and place me in view of all, for so it is requisite’.4 Thus, the following morning, Juan took out Mariana’s portrait and placed it on the altar where the ship’s chaplain would celebrate mass, causing the sailors and passengers to ask whose portrait it was. The night after that, when the ship was wrecked in a storm, the survival of all but one of the passengers was credited to Mariana de Jesús’s intercession.5

More than this providential outcome, various attitudes towards the portrait demand consideration.6 Three points should be noted regarding this account of Juan Guerrero de Salazar’s encounter with his deceased aunt on his journey to Havana. The first is the way the story configures Mariana de Jesús’s own relationship to her portrait, which Juan was bringing with him on his journey to promote her beatification.7 The reproachful little speech that José Guerrero de Salazar attributes to Mariana is an almost comical departure from the modest shunning of portraiture and indifference to her own reputation described by her hagiographers. José Guerrero de Salazar’s narration of the shipboard episode presents a version of Mariana who identifies herself intuitively with her portrait, underscoring the image’s supernatural connection to its model; more than that, José’s Mariana demands to be put on public display, in a diametrical inversion of the avoidance of attention or admiration in life on which her hagiographers insist more generally.8 Here one observes the uneasy sharing of agency between the actual Mariana, her individual biographers and the further influential devotees such as the Guerrero de Salazar brothers who advanced her cause, all of whom alternately concealed or promoted (or promoted by pretending to conceal) Mariana’s sainthood. Making sainthood visible was a collective endeavour to reshape a deceased person, a chorale of texts, images, spoken accounts, and the repetitious conventions of hagiography.

In such a situation, portraits were at the centre of an intricate constellation of promotion and reticence, humility and hagiography. While portraits were indispensable supports of any saintly reputation, their associations with worldliness, and their intrinsic investments in the temporal values of appearance, status, and wealth, gave such images an ambivalent relationship with the new and prospective saints of the early modern period. Individuals who died in the odour of sanctity typically despised the vanity of portraiture during their lifetimes and could only be depicted posthumously or surreptitiously.9 Vanity and attachment to worldly appearance were especially pressing issues in portraits of women, to the extent that any portrait of a well-dressed and attractive woman already had much in common with a personification of luxury or vanity.10 In terms of the strategies by which portraits of a female candidate for sainthood could counteract the negative drift of the image type, Mariana’s case is at once broadly illuminating and atypical. The contrast between Mariana’s hyper-modesty in hagiographic literature and the regal immodesty of her demand for exposure in José Guerrero de Salazar’s account opens up intertwined questions about gender, modesty and vanity that her portraits address in detail.

The second point to note regarding José Guerrero de Salazar’s narrative is his brother Juan’s action in response to Mariana’s demand, as he placed her portrait on the altar where the ship’s chaplain would celebrate mass. This was a shocking breach of religious protocol for the time period, especially coming from the promoter of a cause for beatification, who must have understood its transgressive implications. The display, prior to beatification, of Mariana’s likeness in a consecrated space of public worship was strictly forbidden, as it imputed to her a status that had not been formally recognised by Rome. At a later stage of Mariana’s long road to beatification, one of Juan Guerrero de Salazar’s successors as promoter of her cause in Rome, Bartolomé de Olarán, complained to the bishop of Quito about the damage done to Mariana’s cause by her zealous devotees, who ‘are even making altars with lights’ (‘aun formando Altares con sus luces encendidas’).11 Indeed, an entire section of the Curia’s inquiry into any case for beatification was dedicated to verifying that no such public cult had taken place, with depositions attesting to the absence of specific tokens of unsanctioned veneration such as portraits on an altar or lit candles placed near the candidate’s image or burial site.12 The transition in papal attitudes towards beatification and canonisation across what has been termed the ‘early Congregational period’ from 1588 to 1634 made images a battleground between the spontaneous veneration that made up the vox populi at the root of sainthood and Rome’s insistence on its exclusive role as the vox ierarchiae that made sainthood official.13 Images of candidates for beatification such as Mariana’s shipboard portrait occupied a contested nexus between grassroots cult practices, recognition initiatives stemming therefrom, and a reactive doubling down on papal, curial, and inquisitorial prerogatives on the part of Rome. Mariana’s case offers insight into the way the increasingly global reach of Catholicism played out at the local level of Christian communities in the Spanish imperial context.

In the shipboard encounter, Mariana’s portrait belongs to the obligatory promotional material that her cause’s promoter needed to bring to Rome to present her cause officially before the Sacred Congregation of Rites. In José Guerrero de Salazar’s narrative, the portrait functions as an avatar for a nominally dead person who is still living on another plane and remains immediately present with her devotees, a visual recollection of a human whose mortal physical body has been displaced by a perfected spiritual person. How was the image intended to relate to the likeness of such an individual, and what was their appearance in the image supposed to indicate? If the basic function of the early modern portrait was to make the absent present, the likeness of a person who could (at least in posthumous accounts) appear to devotees and order them about might also have recovered a sense of the absence and strangeness of one who had gone from ordinary absence to being supernaturally present.14 Even the potential for sainthood could complicate and compromise a person’s relationship to their own bodily appearance.15

The third aspect to note about José Guerrero de Salazar’s account of his brother Juan’s encounter with Mariana in 1690 is the wider reaction to her portrait: after Juan Guerrero de Salazar places the image on the altar, the ship’s chaplain and other passengers ask whom it represents.16 This straightforward question, born of the portrait’s travel beyond the borders of Mariana’s reputation, raises the problems of recognition and individuality intrinsic to saintly portraits in this period. Such images had to broker a solution among the contradictory demands of modesty and promotion, of fidelity to an individual’s fallen nature and of conformity to the perfections of an exalted hagiographic type. The relationship between likeness, or to use the period’s Latin term for it, similitudo, and the portrait image was as supple as it was significant.17 The selective deployment of likeness in early modern saintly portraits is an arena of vibrant art historical investigation.18 In particular, the shipboard episode illustrates the disjuncture between different kinds of recognition that the portrait could broker between audience and person depicted: Mariana could be, at least tentatively, recognised as a saint even by a group of viewers who had no way of recognising her as a woman from Quito named Mariana Paredes y Flores.19

What does the recognition of Mariana as a saint but not as a woman tell us about portraiture more broadly? As will be discussed, even if the picture on the ship to Havana was a model of conformity to the most recognisable depiction of Mariana, it would have remained almost entirely interchangeable with hundreds of other likenesses of holy women. José Guerrero de Salazar’s brief account of the shipboard episode shows how Mariana’s pictures, far from being utilitarian promotional tools or expressions of a vague ‘spirit of Trent,’ address fundamental questions about the nature of the early modern portrait image when it is subjected to the pressures of making visible the status or quality of sainthood. Mariana’s portraits expose a visual and textual experimentation that is often misrecognised as mere adherence to convention. This experimentation can be seen in the way her imagery addresses one of the early modern saintly portrait’s central challenges, namely of making the invisible quality of sainthood recognisable while also upholding a value system that equates visibility—even the visibility of extreme asceticism—with vanity. The present essay proposes a substantive analysis of this key current in Mariana’s iconography, not only because the latter is worthy of such study on its own merits (whereas it has been dismissed before as facile recourse to stereotype), but because it helps us to understand the stakes of early modern portraiture more broadly, and brings to light the way saintly images constructed and negotiated sanctity beyond its official conferral or imposition.

In the episode recounted by José Guerrero de Salazar, the people gathered about the altar on the Havana-bound ship were looking, for all practical purposes, at the portrait of a saint, even though they knew nothing whatsoever of the historical woman or what she had done that might have earned her such a status. The contrast between the outright claiming of recognition as a saint (recounted by José Guerrero de Salazar) and the total shunning of such recognition (recounted by Mariana’s hagiographers) points directly to Jean-Luc Marion’s acute identification of the saint as invisible as such, ‘in principle and by right’.20 Recognition as a saint was at once the ultimate goal (in the sense of the conferral of a special status by Roman authorities) and the proximate effect of portrait pictures such as Mariana’s, yet recognition as a saint was just what had to be renounced and denied on a moral level by serious aspirants to such a status.

The portrait in the shipboard episode, were it to appear now, would retroactively be that of a saint: Mariana de Jesús, whose beatification was the purpose of Juan Guerrero de Salazar’s journey, was finally beatified in 1850 and canonised in 1950. A pious criolla21 laywoman who devoted her short life to gruelling penitential disciplines and unreserved renunciation of the world, Mariana died sacrificially in the odour of sanctity at a young age.22 At the time of Mariana’s appearance to Juan Guerrero de Salazar on a ship in 1690, and still 35years later at the time of the episode’s recounting by Juan’s brother José in 1725, Mariana’s likeness lay outside of the heavilypoliced category of saints’ portraits. By the 1630s, an image of an ordinary person and an image of a saint were not merely two fundamentally equivalent sorts of images of different sorts of people, but were ontologically distinct objects to which different powers and prerogatives accrued, as Adam Jasienski has ably shown.23

Particularly in the context of Spain’s American Viceroyalties, interaction with the images of saints was one of the most ubiquitous and supple arenas in which people’s local and individual experiences of Christianity took shape.24 At first glance, the case of Mariana de Jesús’s early imagery would appear to illustrate the most predictable story possible of how approved models both ancient and modern (such as Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima) provided the framework on which a local ideal of female piety could be fashioned. Justifiably, Mariana’s imagery and hagiography have been analysed in terms of the clarity of their corporate branding by the Society of Jesus, and of their conspicuous replication of Rose of Lima (1586–1617)’s successful example in a way that promotes Quito.25 From the springboard of an actual young woman’s striking life and death, the architects of Mariana’s cult built a narrative of conformity, whose effectiveness as a promotional tool lay in an embrace of the premises of emulation and convention that were fundamental to the hagiographic genre for both texts and images. Exemplary to the point of tedium, Mariana’s early portraits in particular, with their emphasis on docile modesty and repetitious visual codes, would appear to tell a story of Viceregal saintly portraiture as expedient promotional material. Such a narrative offers little foothold to ambitious questions about how people thought about what was made visible by portrait images.26 On closer consideration, however, the central strand in Mariana’s iconography, coined by her confessor Fray Hernando de la Cruz, S.J. (1592–1646) and persistent for centuries, turns this conformity into an almost polemical discourse on the paradoxes of vanity and visibility, and on the relationship between image and appearance.

Interchangeable Perfection

In what used to be her room and is now the upper choir of Quito’s Discalced Carmelite convent church of the Carmen Alto stands a polychrome statue of Mariana de Jesús, holding a lily that evokes her honorific title as the ‘Lily of Quito’ (plate 1).27 Dressed in black velvet embroidered with gold, with a prominent IHS on the chest proclaiming her affinity with the Society of Jesus, Mariana’s life-sized effigy turns an unfocused gaze on the space in which she used to pray, weep and subject herself to an implacable regime of penitential disciplines. As is typical in the depiction of female saints, the statue makes visible Mariana’s chaste beauty and inner perfection rather than the physical traces of her extreme asceticism. A work of the type called an imagen de vestir, the statue has articulations at the shoulders and elbows so that it can be dressed, while the lower body has no carved limbs but only an elongated conical shape to support a floor-length skirt. Sculptor and polychromer alike have focused their prowess on the hands and especially on the face, a perfect oval with a straight nose leading to two fine parentheses of the eyebrows, wide almond-shaped eyes, and a cupid’s bow mouth set between full rosy cheeks.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (2)


Unrecorded artists, Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores, eighteenth century. Polychromed wood, glass eyes, clothing and artificial lilies, 150 × 60 × 19cm. Quito: Museo y Convento del Carmen Alto. Photo: Author.

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This ideal set of facial features, shared by the saintly women in countless paintings, sculptures, and prints from the early modern period, is a stable cornerstone of Mariana de Jesús’s iconography, no less than the lily or the black dress.28 An often-cited passage in the most authoritative of Mariana’s biographies, La Azucena de Quito (1724) by the Jesuit Jacinto Morán de Butrón (1668–1749), indicates as much. Morán de Butrón anchors the consistency of Mariana’s iconography in its fidelity to an authoritative portrait (plate 2) by the Panamanian artist Hernando de la Cruz, who was also one of her confessors:29

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (3)


Attributed to Hernando de la Cruz, Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores, 1645–1646. Oil on canvas, 81 × 72.6cm. Quito: Museo y Convento del Carmen Alto. Photo: Author.

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I take it to be quite true that one of the painters who portrayed her was the Venerable Brother Hernando, who was a most excellent [painter], and had her always strongly imprinted on his heart: there are many portraits [of Mariana] in the Province, and all those that I have seen match (estan conformes), as much in the Jesuit costume, as in the rare beauty of her face; for this was rounded in pleasing proportion, white, tranquil, and full of tenderness, the eyes black, large, and shapely, the forehead neither very broad nor very short, the eyebrows black and elongated, and full cheeks with such rosy colour applied there by the Divine Painter as a dissimulation for her penitence, the nose moderately slender, the mouth small, as though it had been drawn as a brief epilogue, with which to utter the praises of its Creator.30

Mariana’s biographer here tethers the conformity of the ‘many portraits in the Province’ that he has seen, not only to a common source in Hernando de la Cruz’s painting, but also to the specific—but hardly unique—attributes of her ‘Jesuit costume’ and beautiful face.31 Her appearance as recorded in her portraits is subject to verification for its conformity to her authoritative likeness, yet of a beauty so perfect as to be interchangeable with a set of disembodied and endlessly repeatable standards of beauty itself.

One may verify the broader currency of the facial features so carefully ascribed to Mariana in her biography in the fact that her polychrome effigy discussed above, which adheres in every particular to Morán de Butrón’s description, was not originally produced as a statue of Mariana. As the statue is an imagen de vestir, the clothing and headdress are separate and can be changed; the lilies cling to a hand that was not meant to grasp such an object, and the ears are pierced, designed for the addition of heavy gold earrings, a detail as inappropriate for an ascetic beata as it is apt for a statue of Mary the queen of heaven. The very features that make Mariana most verifiably herself are also a vanishing point at which she dissolves into indistinct resemblance to countless other holy women from Mary onwards.

The public character of polychrome sculpture, as compared with prints or paintings especially, raises the connected issues of chronology and medium in Mariana’s iconography. On the face of it, the refashioning of a polychrome statue of Mary as one of Mariana strongly suggests that this change took place after Mariana’s beatification in 1850, when it had become licit to display and venerate images of her in a public setting. The re-use of a statue with a different iconography is in keeping with what is known about the production and circulation of eighteenth-century sculpture in Quito, much of which was geared towards interchangeability and re-use.32 Nevertheless, the expedient re-purposing of a Marian statue to fill a demand for a statue of Mariana illustrates a paradoxical fidelity over time to authoritative descriptions of Mariana’s true appearance such as Morán de Butrón’s: even images of people other than Mariana still match the description that verifies their conformity to the true likeness of Mariana. Similarly, the incidental circ*mstance of being unable to pinpoint the chronology of the statue’s modification suggests that Mariana’s actual canonical status may have been a moot point relative to the way her devotees perceived and treated her images. Whether the statue was changed pre- or post-1850 (or even pre- or post-1950 when Mariana was canonised), for the purposes of the people who dressed and venerated it, it was the image of a saint.33

The medium of the imagen de vestir also highlights the inherent contradictions in the making of devotional and honorific images whose subjects are distinguished by their humility. In a Spanish peninsular context, the lavish adornment of imágenes de vestir was widely condemned by Church authorities, but remained in vigorous practice by confraternities and devotees, as demonstrated by Susan Verdi Webster.34 The focal point of both practice and critique was the lavish deployment of wealth and splendour, producing a female-coded regal/saintly beauty that was, from the theologians’ point of view, problematically redolent of worldliness, vanity, and the negative seductiveness of wealth and appearance.35 In this connection, Mariana’s imagery is illustrative of the widespread difficulty attendant on depictions of female saints, namely the shared visual and material language tying the magnificence and perfections of heaven to the spurious attractions of earth.36

‘How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints’, wrote C.S. Lewis.37 Yet if the saints are marked by glorious difference, what are art historians to make of the apparent aesthetic of sameness that dominates early modern hagiographic imagery? What Romeo de Maio describes as a straitjacketing of early modern sainthood into ‘constitutive models’ and ‘inadequate images’ has more often set the tone for the study of hagiographic portraits than any expectation of exultant individuality.38 The fluctuating interplay between the necessarily flawed individual and the perfected ideal to which they were being conformed (Romans 8:29) reveals many of the tensions surrounding the exemplarity of saints in the expanding Catholic world of the seventeenth century.39 If the saints were modest and despised both the world and their bodies, how did this square with entrenched expectations that beauty and nobility of character would find visible outward expression? If, as outlined in a long history of art treatises, looking at images of exemplary people enabled their examples to shape the viewer, was it through the perfections or the flaws in the saint’s appearance that this exemplarity took effect?40 Could sainthood be made visible at all without compromising the humility that was its key trait?41 And could any artist make the saint recognisable as such and also recognisable as herself?

Images of aspiring saints, and particularly of women, had to perform improbable acrobatics in order to navigate expectations about beauty and individuality, appearance and character, sinful body and state of grace. To the extent that one might delineate a ‘mainstream’ artistic approach to ideal beauty in the early modern European painting tradition, the working model was the Zeuxian assemblage of perfect features that would never coexist in a single individual, based on the influential accounts of art and artists in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.42 In portraits whose primary function is exemplarity, this raises the question of whether perfection, which is by definition at a distance from the flawed individual, advances or compromises the picture’s capacity to move its audience towards emulation of the subject’s virtues.43

As noted earlier, portraits implied vanity and were typically shunned by early modern servants of God regardless of gender. In the case of Teresa of Ávila, for instance, Teresa’s relatively unusual consent to sit for a portrait is recounted by Father Jerónimo Gracián as an act of obedience and even mortification.44 Teresa’s European imagery presents perhaps the widest range of iconographic solutions to the competing demands of modesty, beauty, fidelity to the individual, and exemplary perfection.45 Ostentatiously unpretty portraits (showing Teresa with jowls and prominent moles) (plate 3) coexist with beautified portraits in which Teresa is recognisable only via attributes or narrative settings (plate 4). Teresa’s ‘ugly’ images are most often those that present her in masculine roles of authority, as inspired theologian or as order founder, and the emphasis on her age and indifference to beauty helps to shift the gendered horizon of expectation for her virtues.46 Yet as these examples show, even the most ‘frank’ of Teresa’s images show an element of idealisation, and even the most abstracted pictures of her retain some gesture—a cleft chin, a heavy browline—towards physical particularity. The general detachment from these particularising features in Teresa’s Andean imagery, however, hints that the terms of engagement with saints’ likenesses in Quito follow local rules that must be understood and assessed on their own terms (plate 5). As regards expectations for the balance between veristic individuality and idealisation in depictions of female saints, the beautified images of Teresa might indicate that frank resemblance did not carry the same weight in Quito (in certain instances at least) as in Spain.47

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (4)


Pieter de Jode I, Portrait of Teresa of Ávila, 1611–1613. Pen, ink and wash on paper, 16.1 × 21.6cm. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Photo: Rijksmuseum.

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The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (5)


Benoît Thiboust, after Gianlorenzo Bernini, Saint Teresa of Ávila in Ecstasy, 1681. Engraving, 43.8 × 29.3cm. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. Photo: Rijksmuseum.

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The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (6)


Attributed to Lucas Vizuete, Saint Teresa of Ávila, c. 1629. Oil on canvas, 101 × 85cm. Quito: Museo y Convento del Carmen Alto. Photo: Instituto Nacional del Patrimonio Cultural del Ecuador.

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The passage from Morán de Butrón’s biography quoted above bears out the continued importance of Mariana’s portrait actually looking like Mariana. Yet hers is a case that puts unaccustomed pressure on the triangulated tension between fidelity to the recognisable individual, conformity to a beatific ideal, and a perceived need to both bracket and emphasise the importance of outward appearance. Currently, the polychrome statue and Hernando de la Cruz’s painted portrait of Mariana are exhibited in the same space (plate 6), with the effect of underscoring the faithful correspondence of the statue to the portrait, and to the description thereof in Morán de Butrón’s biography. The placement of the statue in the doubly sacred space of the Discalced Carmelite church and of the saint’s former living quarters exemplifies the way saints’ images could function similarly to relics, as agents of miraculous intervention and as (albeit indirect) pars pro toto residues of the holy person.48 Even as the juxtaposition of the lifelike polychrome statue with the ur-portrait reinforces the sense of both images’ truthful conformity to Mariana’s likeness, their relic-like character is also underscored by the inclusion, still in the same historic space, of a large cross that is described as a relic of Mariana’s (see plate 6). That the Carmen Alto’s polychrome statue began as a depiction of someone else is irrelevant, as its potent similitudo with Fray Hernando’s authoritative likeness of Mariana becomes immediately verifiable against the backdrop of the very space that she used to inhabit.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (7)


Upper Choir of the Carmen Alto Discalced Carmelite Chapel. Quito: Museo y Convento del Carmen Alto. Photo: Author.

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As María de los Ángeles Fernández Valle indicates, the Carmen Alto picture’s impact on Mariana’s iconography was not merely due to a chronological priority but to a potent aura derived from its historical proximity to the saint and from its purportedly divine origins.49 Initially unable to achieve a likeness of Mariana, Hernando de la Cruz looked to the image of Christ crucified, and when he turned to copy the dying Saviour in the crucifix on the table in his own painting, he then found himself able to perfectly depict Mariana.50 The tale of the flummoxed painter who finds himself miraculously enabled to complete a picture, or who finds his unfinished image perfectly completed through divine intervention, recurs frequently at the intersection of hagiographic and artistic literature in this period.51 For our purposes, the story highlights the way in which Mariana’s portrait functioned to an early modern audience as an object lesson in how to interact with images. Look to the crucifix, as Mariana does, and you will also see Mariana most accurately. The emulation of Christ’s suffering that is the dominant note in her biography becomes a generative element of her imagery, and scholars of her iconography rightly underscore the importance of imitatio Christi.52

The turning outwards of the crucifix, so that Christ’s body is angled towards the viewer rather than facing Mariana, is a tried and true device for including the viewer in this meditation. Beholders of Mariana’s portrait can understand themselves not only as joining her in contemplation of Christ crucified, but of creating a plane of shared exemplarity within the image, from which the examples of both Jesus and Mariana appear in tandem. The net effect of this device is an exhortation to emulate Christ as Mariana did. Despite the ubiquity of this arrangement of saint and crucifix in early modern hagiographic painting, it remains worth noting as a component of the entire picture’s programmatic rewarding of viewers’ familiarity with Mariana’s cult.53 The story of the painting’s own miraculous genesis is embedded within its most basic components for those who know to find it there, while remaining legible as an exhortation to piety for a broader audience.

Ubiquitous Attributes and Unofficial Sainthood

The most basic components of Mariana’s early imagery exemplify the potential shifts and shortfalls of audience participation in making a saintly portrait recognisable as such. The seemingly humdrum issue of hagiographic iconography deserves attention with a strong question mark attached in the context of Quito; as Serge Gruzinski summarises the matter, ‘the Spanish colonisation of America (...) spread cognitive frameworks that went beyond the issues at stake in a simple modification of the local iconographic repertoire.’54 Stylistic strategies relating to the idealisation or to the individual particularity in the faces of saints did not evolve from one approach into another, but were used simultaneously in creative and meaningful combinations in Quito, as Verdi Webster’s compelling analysis of the Quito-based painter Mateo Mexía’s work demonstrates.55 As in Europe, the depiction of saints, especially ancient ones, in terms of conventional attributes rather than recognisable likeness was the rule rather than the exception.56 The interchangeable images of Franciscan Tertiaries affixed to the pilasters along the narthex and nave of the basilica of San Francisco in Quito (plate 7) are one local example. Yet this visual quasi-anonymity did not preclude the image’s prerogative to transmit the specific person’s physical, historical appearance.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (8)


Unrecorded artist(s), Philippa and Constance, seventeenth or eighteenth century. Oil on canvas, dimensions unknown. Quito: Church of San Francisco. Photo: Author.

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With some variation in her attributes but almost none in her face or pose, Mariana’s portrait images show her with repeated iterations of the ideal features described in her biography and made visible by Fray Hernando, with the attributes of a lily and a crucifix, and in most cases, a skull and several instruments of self-mortification. As Helen Hills notes, the crucifix in frontispiece images for biographies of female candidates for sainthood was a near-omnipresent accessory, readily understood shorthand for the prospective saint’s identification with Christ’s suffering.57 The skull in front of Mariana will be a focus of discussion further on, but the first point to observe about it is also its ubiquity. The perceived tendencies towards vanity and worldliness that were ascribed to women in the early modern period are counteracted in depictions of saintly women by skulls that signal, on the model of Mary Magdalene especially, the renunciation of beauty and pleasure in exchange for an ascetic lifestyle and meditation on the brevity of life in contrast with eternal joy or suffering.

Mariana’s portrait images also invariably show her with the lily that was both her honorific attribute and the fruit of her penitential practices according to one of the more memorable miracles in her biography. The household’s Indigenous servant Catalina de Alcocer used to help Mariana to clean up the blood from her body and her room, so as to conceal her penitential practices from the rest of the family; Catalina then disposed of the blood in one part of the garden, only to find that lilies had miraculously grown there.58 Just as the facial features described in Morán de Butrón’s biography are simultaneously Mariana’s and those of countless other holy women, so too are the very attributes (such as the lily) that are most distinctively Mariana’s, shared by everyone else. Oval faces, lilies, crucifixes, whips and skulls overlap to the point of dissolution within the iconographic repertoire of early modern saints of both sexes. The black dress that is often made more explicitly into a ‘Jesuit costume’ through the addition of the IHS is one of the few features that actively distinguishes Mariana from Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), for instance (plate 8), or from any number of harder-to-recognise female saints such as the Franciscan Tertiaries just noted (see plate 7).59

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (9)


Marcantonio Raimondi, Catherine of Siena, from the series ‘Piccoli Santi’, c. 1500–1527. Engraving, 8.0 × 4.3cm. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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As Nancy van Deusen indicates, imitation was the operative principle of sainthood in both directions: one imitated the saints, and one thus became the kind of person whom others could imitate in turn.60 Mariana’s sainthood, at least in its posthumous formulations by the promoters of her cult, is premised on the imitation of approved models, which themselves are imitations of prior ones.61 In Mariana’s case, this imitative principle was articulated with the simile of copying images, as Morán de Butrón for instance describes her as a ‘sketch’ (bosquejo) taken from the models of Rose and Catherine.62 In his perceptive discussion of the palimpsest formed collectively by Catherine, Rose, Mariana and the many writers, artists, and devotees who fashioned their saintly personas, Frank Graziano indicates how Rose and Mariana’s deliberate emulation of Catherine grew into a hagiographic discourse of resemblance that blurred the distinctions between all three.63 The hagiographic genre’s guiding principle of conformity to successful models as the hallmark of legitimacy finds frequent expression both in Rose’s imagery and Mariana’s. This is evident, for instance, in the caption presenting a generically-featured Rose as a ‘strenuous imitator of Catherine of Siena’ in the portrait frontispiece to the Valencian edition of Leonhard Hansen’s vita of the Limeña saint (plate 9).64 Although the veneration of both Rose and Mariana gave rise to rich and varied iconographies, these produce a persistent impression that what their actual faces looked like simply does not matter. They were young, beautiful, and devout—what might make them recognisable as themselves has receded behind what will make them recognisable as saints.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (10)


Unrecorded artist(s), Rosa de Santa Maria, in Leonhard Hansen, Vida admirable y muerte preciosa de la Venerable Madre Soror Rosa de Santa Maria, Peruana, en Lima, de la Tercera Orden de Predicadores, Valencia, 1665, unnumbered page. Providence: John Carter Brown Library. Photo: John Carter Brown Library.

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As Jasienski demonstrates, portraiture was (and remains) anything but a stable category of images; rather, its very fluidity put pressure on the too-porous boundary between sacred and profane likenesses of individuals.65 This was particularly true of those who had died in the odour of sanctity but had not been beatified, as their veneration would contravene both the specifics of Urban VIII’s de non cultu regulations and the larger principle of Rome’s jealously guarded prerogative to pronounce on sanctity.66 The repetitious and convention-driven nature of hagiographic imagery as a genre was a boon for the depictions of aspiring saints such as Mariana de Jesús, as the very features that made the image interchangeable with countless other ones also strengthened the portrait’s sense of belonging within a holy group. The very ubiquity of Mariana’s attributes, from the iconic Marian silhouette to the crucifix, skull, whip, and lilies, enable her image to evoke specific saints (such as the Jesuit Francisco de Borja, or Catherine of Siena), while also generating a basso continuo of saintliness as such in a likeness that remains on the correct side of Rome’s prohibitions against pre-emptive markers of sanctity. The forbidden indicators of an as-yet unofficial status, such as halos or resplandores, are hardly necessary when the portrait is structured entirely around visual cues for sainthood. Mariana’s indistinctness vis à vis her models is a potent announcement that she belongs in their company.

Haec est pulchritudo humana

The miraculous true portrait of Mariana painted by her confessor Hernando de la Cruz, who had her likeness ‘engraved on his heart’ yet could only reproduce it when first contemplating and copying Christ on the cross, encapsulates a series of complex statements on appearance and on how to relate to images in general. The portrait rewards the devotees who are more familiar with Mariana’s story with a far richer picture than might appear to more casual viewers. As suggested already, the portrait (along with its numerous replicas) turns the ubiquity of Mariana’s attributes of lily, crucifix, whips and skull into evidence of her sainthood, as verified by her commonalities with Rose of Lima and Catherine of Siena in particular. The lily, as mentioned, also ties the generic marker of saintly virginity to Mariana’s honorific name and to the particular miracle of the lilies that grow from her blood, a link made more explicit in a variant on Fray Hernando’s portrait currently in the lower choir of another of Quito’s Discalced Carmelite convents, the Carmen Bajo (plate 10). The lilies, which Mariana clutches to her chest in Fray Hernando’s painting, are shown here sprouting from a large bowl of blood, in a clear reference to the miraculous lilies found by Catalina de Alcocer in Mariana’s garden. The radical connection between the blood and the lilies also evokes the relentless link drawn in her hagiographies, from Alonso de Rojas’s funeral sermon onwards, between virginity and martyrdom, and between her pitiless treatment of her body and her spiritual perfection.67

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (11)


Unrecorded artist(s), Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores, late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Oil on canvas, approximately 80 × 70cm. Quito: Convento Carmelitano del Carmen Bajo. Photo: Author.

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Most importantly, however, the skull at which Mariana gazes in Fray Hernando’s portrait goes from a generic standby of saintly vanitas imagery to a richly narrative mise-en-abîme for viewers conversant with Mariana’s hagiography. Mariana gazes at the skull and sees herself, even as the viewer is invited to reconfigure their reading of Mariana’s features (and their own) in terms of their manifest end.68 Here, Mariana’s image reorders the value of appearance, and of visibility itself, through the controlling interpretive lens of death.69 The pose and gaze of Mariana as she contemplates the skull move the portrait towards the realm of sacred narrative. Her posture and expression are those of the Annunciate Virgin Mary, as seen in numerous medieval and early modern examples including prints such as Albrecht Dürer’s annunciation scene from his much-pirated Life of the Virgin, or Jacopo Caraglio’s engraving of the Annunciation after Titian (plate 11). While for Mary, the modest posture prefaces her humble acceptance of the Angel’s message and of her divinely appointed role in salvation, what Mariana receives and accepts is an announcement of death, not birth. Her contemplation of the skull, in which numerous scholars have seen a promotion of Jesuit meditative practices, might also be understood both in a more ecumenical sense and in a more particular set of connections with her biography.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (12)


Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio, after Tiziano Vecellio, The Annunciation, 1537. Engraving, 45.5 × 34.4cm. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Both her Jesuit and Franciscan biographies dwell on Mariana’s use of images of death as tools for meditation, spelling out in detail that her contemplation of death was not merely general, but personal: Morán de Butrón describes Mariana as having commissioned an image of a rotting skull that she would describe as her mirror.70 Both he and the Franciscan Chronicler Diego de Córdova y Salinas (1591–1684) relate a detailed anecdote of Mariana’s interaction with an imagen de bulto (wooden sculpture) of a corpse. She dressed this image in a Franciscan habit and sprinkled it with holy water, addressing it as an alter ego and putting herself in a priestly role towards her future self, saying ‘May God forgive you, Mariana’.71 Another painting of Mariana in the Carmen Bajo, which merits separate and fuller discussion, focuses explicitly on this self-reflexive interaction with the corpse (plate 12). Yet already in the subtler interaction between Mariana and the skull, Fray Hernando’s picture invites viewers with sufficient awareness of the oral and textual traditions about Mariana to recognise her acceptance of her own death.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (13)


Unrecorded artist(s), Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores, late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Oil on canvas, approximately 100 × 80cm. Quito: Convento Carmelitano del Carmen Bajo. Photo: Author.

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One of the earliest known written sources on Mariana’s life is the eulogy sermon preached at her funeral by one of her confessors, Father Alonso de Rojas, S.J. (1588–1653), and published in Lima in 1646.72 In what would become the defining trait of Mariana’s hagiographies, Rojas’s sermon forges the notion of her death as a bloodless martyrdom: an epidemic-stricken Quito, dreading that the city would suffer more of the earthquakes that had just devastated the city of Riobamba, was called to repentance by the charismatic Rojas from the pulpit of the Compañia church during Lent of 1645.73 The fact that the earthquakes did not strike Quito and that the epidemics subsided was credited to the prayers and self-sacrifice of Mariana de Jesús, who had asked that God spare the city of Quito and take her life instead in propitiation of their many sins. According to Mariana’s biographers, her prayer was immediately answered by the onset of terminal illness on 26 March 1645. By the time she succumbed on 26 May, her death was the martyr’s crown on her reputation for sanctity, widely understood both as an act of supreme generosity and as a burning rebuke of the city’s licentiousness. Fray Hernando’s image incorporates a prophetic embrace of her self-sacrifice to save the city of Quito and alludes also to her description of the skull as her own truer portrait within her true portrait. At minimum, viewers in the Viceroyalty of Peru who had heard enough about Mariana to find themselves in front of such an image in the first place would also be well-placed to know the story of her self-sacrifice to deliver the city from divine justice. The transfer of Mary’s pose of acceptance to Mariana’s contemplation of the skull turns an otherwise static and meditative scene into an anticipatory episode in the dramatic arc leading up to her actual death.

The skull as it is deployed in Mariana’s portrait by Fray Hernando is, from perhaps a cynical point of view, an easy device to counteract what one might term the promotional importance of her beauty. An attractive face and an air of nobility were features more readily associated with sainthood than physical attributes associated with labour and low social standing. In Mariana’s case, the skull is a cue to imitate not only her awareness of death, but an entire attitude towards physical appearance, even if this was often a point of egregious hypocrisy in depictions of female saints. As Jasienski acutely observes, replacing a would-be saint’s portrait with a skull ‘pushed the image from portrait to antiportrait’, in a move paradoxically similar to the de-individualising shift that would carry an individual likeness into the category of saint’s image.74 From the early date of 1651, Mariana’s short biography by the Franciscan Chronicler Córdova y Salinas sets her use of the image of the putrid skull alongside her approach to her own appearance, in the longstanding vanitas tradition pairing skull with mirror so as to underscore the fleeting nature of beauty. The skull points to her as a consumer of images, in a way that shapes how viewers should treat the image of Mariana as a whole, even if it also gratifies a demand for a beautiful appearance to correspond reassuringly with inner virtue.

One sees again the consummate skill with which Fray Hernando de la Cruz wove a set of boilerplate hagiographic devices into an image that is richly specific to Mariana. This is evident, for instance, in her pose, as she holds a lily beneath the two slender hands crossed upon her chest. The pose is found in portraits of saints from Francis Xavier to Teresa of Ávila (see plate 5), in addition to its evocation of the annunciate Virgin Mary just indicated.75 In combination with Mariana’s downcast and almost closed eyes, rather than the heavenward gazes of Xavier and Teresa, the pose becomes funerary, evoking the portrait’s indexical and substitutional character vis à vis the deceased body of the actual person, as in funeral effigies such as that of the Beata Villana de’ Botti (plate 13). At its most indistinctly Marian, therefore, Mariana’s portrait retains its insistence on its relic-like character as a ‘true portrait’, or verdadero retrato.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (14)


Detail of Bernardo Rossellino, Funerary Effigy of the Blessed Villana de’ Botti, 1451–1452. Marble, approximately 170 × 150cm. Florence: Santa Maria Novella. Photo: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons.

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Both Hernando de la Cruz and Alonso de Rojas conceived of their respective representations of Mariana through a chiastic inversion of life and death. While this may indeed be an expression of Jesuit spirituality, it carries a broader resonance for the way that Fray Hernando and Padre Rojas instrumentalise Mariana as an image of a woman that reverses the properties of images, a perfect beauty who looks to her beauty’s undoing. Hernando de la Cruz, according to the Jesuit historian José María Vargas, ‘painted many representations of death with this inscription: Haec est pulchritudo humana [such is human beauty]’,76 while the first words of Alonso de Rojas’s sermon in Mariana’s honour are ‘Unos vivos muertos hacemos hoy honras a una muerta viva’—we who are alive yet dead, honour today one who is dead yet alive.77 Both Fray Hernando and Padre Rojas were fashioning posthumous images of Mariana, and both proleptically include the fact of her death as fundamental to her perspectives on and in life. The play of inversions between life and death is completed by the descriptions of her uncorrupted body—an obligatory component of early modern hagiographic literature—as preserving a more-than-lifelike beauty, as though in death it had been ‘retouched’ (retocado) like a painting.78 While Mariana in life recognised herself in the likeness of the corpse that she dressed in a Franciscan habit, in death her body instead took on greater resemblance to the youth and beauty that she had sought to disown.

Invisible Sainthood

Perhaps this was merely a convenient way for the architects of Mariana’s posthumous image to have both the advantageous advertising of a physically beautiful Mariana and also the rejection of worldly vanities that she was meant to exemplify. Yet as early as Alonso de Rojas’s funerary sermon, Mariana’s beauty was not just an illusion in the sense that she recognised it as fleeting, but it was described as a divine obfuscation of what she really looked like. Her gaze at the skull is a springboard for viewers conversant with texts such as Rojas’s Sermon to associate the skull, her self-declared ‘true portrait,’ with the notion that her face as it is shown in her verdadero retrato by Fray Hernando is a divinely produced illusion, concealing rather than revealing her physical appearance.

As Fernando Quiles notes, the image type of the ‘true portrait’ was ‘as much a relic as a formal code’, and he adds that although it is more often associated with images derived from death masks, it could also apply to portrait prints regardless of the degree to which the person portrayed was recognisable.79 Although the notional fidelity to the historical person’s appearance guaranteed the image’s ability to double as a relic, the degree of actual resemblance to the person portrayed was negotiable to say the least.80 The distinctive traits of the individual were at once an indispensable support for restoring the person’s presence and a matter of degree, included at times so cursorily as to seem entirely incidental to the image’s function..

Art historians’ difficulty in attributing more than a promotion of a local woman’s cult and/or of Jesuit spirituality to the iconography of Mariana based on Fray Hernando’s portrait increases in the case of mass-produced variants, such as the print by the New Spain-based engraver Francisco Sylverio de Sotomayor (1699–1763) that became the frontispiece for the Mexican 1732 edition of Morán de Butrón’s La Azucena de Quito (plate 14).81 Sylverio’s fundamental and conspicuous adherence to Hernando de la Cruz’s model, however mediated and modified, amply justifies both the print’s claim to the status of verdadero retrato and Morán de Butrón’s assertion that the many likenesses of Mariana in circulation are ‘muy conformes’ to the authoritative source image by her confessor. In Morán de Butrón’s own testimony in Mariana’s apostolic process, given in his hometown of Guayaquil in the late winter and early spring of 1747, an account of a miraculous healing performed through Mariana’s intercession through Hernando de la Cruz’s own application of his painting to an infirm body concludes with an impressive roster of its copies: ‘Of this original portrait many copies have been taken throughout the Realm, and that of Lima, and five prints on paper have been made, three in Quito, and two in Rome, all three of them dedicated to Princesses, and the others to illustrious persons.’82 Not only does Morán de Butrón tie the copies to the miraculously efficacious original, but he explicitly underscores the cachet of the printed images through the status of their dedicatees. Numerous witnesses in Mariana’s apostolic process asserted that her portrait, especially in printed form, was to be found in homes across the socio-economic spectrum of Quito, and was particularly ubiquitous in Indigenous households, both among wealthy elites and labourers.83

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (15)


Francisco Sylverio de Sotomayor, True Portrait of Mariana de Jesús of Quito, in Jacinto Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, que broto el florido campo de la Iglesia en las Indias Occidentales de los Reynos del Perú, y cultivò con los esmeros de su enseñança la Compañia de Jesus; La V. Virgen Mariana de Jesus Paredes y Flores, Admirable en Virtudes, Profecias, y Milagros, Mexico City, 1732. Providence: John Carter Brown Library. Photo: John Carter Brown Library.

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These statements situate Mariana’s portraits in an interchangeable category with her relics, as evidence of her fama sanctitatis and as supports for her miraculous intercession. Yet the images’ ability to double as relics by no means devalorises their qualities and strategies as pictures. On the contrary, the insistent multiplicity of the pictures’ functions—as objects of contemplation, channels for private devotion, and practical therapeutic tools—puts all the more pressure on the artistic factors that conveyed together Mariana’s true likeness and her cautiously qualified saintliness. While produced later and at a geographic remove from most of the portraits that would have circulated in Quito in the half-century after Mariana’s death, Francisco Sylverio’s engraving is a refined meditation on appearance that has been dismissed as hackneyed advertising. In particular, the porcelain quality of Mariana’s features performs the dual function of ensuring the print’s efficacy through fidelity to Fray Hernando’s miraculous and authoritative image, and of centring the print around the chiastic inversion of life and death, the fleeting and the eternal, that the first architects of Mariana’s cult set forth in word and image.

A comparable Spanish print (plate 15) carries out a similar manoeuvre in reverse, so to speak—in the frontispiece portrait introducing Crisostomo Enríquez’s 1632 Historia de la vida, virtudes y milagros de la venerable Madre Ana de San Bartholome, the saintly subject’s vera effigies presents her in very much the same tone and setting as Mariana, as a contemplative and penitent imitator of Christ. Although Ana de San Bartholomé’s wrinkles and imperfections are emphatically included, the idea of her portrait’s relationship to her true appearance is bracketed by the surrounding text, where Mariana’s portrait undercuts the relationship between true appearance and the visible portrait in a silent synergy with the biography it introduces. Madre Ana’s veristic likeness, no less than Mariana’s lacquered beauty, is in fact a reminder of the visible body’s fallacy: ‘Fallax gratia, et vana est pulchritudo’ begins the verse from Proverbs 31 above the portrait, ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’84 The point is applied more directly still to the relationship between Madre Ana’s misleading physical imperfection and her inner beauty in the caption, which addresses the viewer/reader directly: ‘Reader, this portrait / Represents a woman / In name but not in being [En el nombre, no en el ser] / For she was an angel in her deeds’ (see plate 15). Both Ana de San Bartolomé’s and Mariana’s portraits share the conflicting needs to promote and to renounce, to display in visible terms a person’s inner perfection in a manner that conveys their rejection of the visible as vain and misleading.

The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (16)


Unrecorded artist(s), True Portrait of Ana de San Bartolomeo, in Crisostomo Enríquez, Historia de la vida, virtudes y milagros de la venerable Madre Ana de San Bartholome, Compañera inseparable de la sancta Madre Teresa de Iesus, Brussels, 1632, unnumbered page. Ávila: Biblioteca Pública. Photo: Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y León.

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What then can images make visible of a person whose exemplarity is based on their rejection of both their own exemplarity and of visibility itself? In Mariana’s funerary sermon, after recounting the gruelling penitential schedule that Mariana had set for herself, Padre Rojas addresses the effects of this lifestyle on her appearance, noting that her ascetic practices had given her a ‘pale and sagging face’ (pálido y macilento) that aroused the concern of her friends; horrified at the idea that her penitence would be recognised, Mariana prays for help and is granted a ‘full and rosy face, with veils of colour with which God dissimulated her virtues,’ to the relief of her friends and the satisfaction of Mariana with the divine dissemblance.85 In expanding on this notion, Morán de Butrón moves from Rojas’s general idea of God providing Mariana with miraculous ‘velos de color’ to the specific idea of Christ as the painter who ‘retouches’ Mariana’s likeness and creates, ‘with the brush of His Omnipotence’, a marvellously deceitful appearance.86 The ‘supernatural beauty’ of Mariana, modelled on the Biblical precedents of Daniel, Esther, and Judith, is rescued from the engaño (deceit) of worldly beauty through Morán’s and Rojas’s revelation of the divine engaño generating it for a greater purpose. The oft-replicated perfections of Mariana’s facial features need not resemble any one real woman, for they are the veil over her likeness at the same time as her veritable and divinely generated appearance.

From the short paragraph in Rojas’s sermon quoted above, Morán de Butrón extrapolates an entire chapter, in which, as in a play, there is a lengthy exchange of dialogue between Mariana and her concerned friends and family regarding the rigours to which she subjects her body. In response to their distaste for her brutal fasts and self-flagellation, Mariana embraces a holy hypocrisy to counteract her own budding reputation for sanctity, seeking true humility in the guise of vain beauty. The paradox of this act of virtue is a conceit that Morán de Butrón makes the most of, declaring: ‘Rare species! To flee from hypocrisy, to wish to appear a hypocrite,’87 and ‘What holy hypocrisy that of this Virgin in appearing to be what she was not; but how contrary to that of the World!’88 It is precisely the idea that she will be taken for a saint that motivates Mariana’s request for a changed appearance; the readiness to appear vain rather than be thought virtuous becomes a bizarre token of her virtue. This contrarian embrace of beauty as humility goes beyond superficially similar precedents of divine dissimulation in the appearance of female saints. Thus, for instance, Catherine of Siena prays for the concealment of her stigmata, but is still painted with them frequently, and Rose of Lima receives a similar divine favour to dissemble her fasting but it hardly merits a page in her Vita, in contrast with the theme’s development into a full chapter by Morán de Butrón.89

With Klaus Krüger’s landmark intervention on the topic in mind, one might say that in Mariana’s case, the image does not function only as a ‘veil for the invisible’, but becomes itself a miraculous veil concealing a merely physical reality.90 As Morán de Butrón puts it, ‘had this blessed Virgin received no other favour from her Spouse, this one was sufficient to call her whole life prodigious, and her face, a repeated, continuous miracle’.91 The fact that Mariana’s portraits share the key function of generating and bringing into focus her veneration is the very point about her appearance that Morán de Butrón’s Mariana most repudiates: ‘So divine a painter is [God], that he will be able to retouch my face, with such art that through it I will neither appear a penitent nor be taken for a Saint, as they have judged’.92 Viewers who approached Mariana’s portrait even with minimal awareness of the idea—already in circulation, at the latest, the year following her death—that her facial features were a miraculously granted dissimulation of her actual appearance would find in Mariana’s imagery a rich metacommentary on appearance itself. It would be needlessly cynical to dismiss the idea of Mariana’s miraculously deceptive face as hypocrisy on the part of her devotees and promoters, regardless of whether they also happened to be capitalising in creative ways on the hagiographic trope of reluctant beauty. Rather, the portraits’ relationship to the true person becomes an almost eucharistic divine mystery, with a true essence divinely concealed by perceptible accidents.93

Conclusion: Ambitious Visibility

If it is indeed a trick of her advocates to elevate Mariana’s portraits to congruence with the divine painter’s miraculous dissimulations, it can hardly be called a cheap one. At its most ambitious, Mariana’s imagery addresses an acute preoccupation with qualifying the extent to which physical appearance, and especially images, corresponded to true essence.94 Mariana’s portraits, to an audience of initiates, dismantle the premises of portraiture, claiming for the Quito native’s repetitious images a paradoxically unique status. The first portrait type of Mariana demonstrates the fine-grained sensibilities of Quito-based artists and audiences in considering visibility and recognition as axes of interpretation for an image.

Any dismissal of saintly portraits like Mariana’s as transparent propaganda or expressions of a monolithic ‘spirit of Trent’ does a disservice to this imagery’s subtle management of its own synergy within a larger body of hagiographic texts and images. The simple and apparently indistinct hagiographic formula undergirding the iconography of Mariana de Jesús is an instructive instance of how early modern Quito’s artists and viewers alike were attuned to a language of self-bracketing in Christian images. The stereotype of hagiographic images as the brash, mass-produced advertisem*nt of Counter-Reformation spirituality collapses before the confidence and ambition with which Hernando de la Cruz and his artistic successors crafted a pictorial meditation on the nature of visibility.

As Jean-Luc Marion observes, ‘Through a performative contradiction that is intuitively irrefutable, someone who lays claim to sanctity disproves it in him- or herself.’95 The preeminence of humility as the indispensable virtue guaranteeing a saint’s legitimacy was compromised by the inherently vain image category of the portrait in ways that forced potential future saints’ images of the early modern period into a conundrum. What did it mean to be recognised as a saint? And to what extent could this be separated from being recognised as oneself, as the person with a name, a history, and a connection to real people and places? Mariana’s early likenesses, in their elegant, if perhaps insincere, denials of her sanctity, bear witness to the suppleness of images that inhabited the effervescent intersection between sacred image and secular portrait.96 The question of portraiture’s relationship to individuality is at once complicated and clarified when seen through the magnifying lens of Mariana’s early iconography. This imagery’s subtle experimentation with the inherent vanity of a beautiful woman’s appearance, with the standardisation of saintly characteristics, and with promotional compromise between humility and perfection, is paradoxically expressed in the most conventional visual language possible. The imagery of Mariana de Jesús that derives from her authoritative portrait by Fray Hernando de la Cruz is an eloquent expression of the early modern period’s wider experimentation with the conventions of the visible to express the invisible. Mariana’s apparently derivative imagery is a unique and dizzying mirror tunnel of visible affirmation and invisible self-denial, visible vanity and invisible sainthood.


Of the many people who gave generously of their time and expertise, the author especially wishes to thank María Belén Misle, Noralma Suárez Litardo, Carmen Fernández Salvador, Prioress Hermana Raquel de Santa Teresita and the Discalced Carmelite Sisters of the Convento del Carmen Bajo in Quito, Arquitecto Diego Santander, Francisco Torres Lasso and Mariana Torres Gavela in Ecuador; Guillermo García Montúfar García in Peru; Jonathan Greenwood, Adam Jasienski, Susan Verdi Webster and Patricia Torres Lasso in North America; and Wei Jiang (蒋薇), Lucía Querejazu Escobari, Raphaèle Preisinger, Irene González Negro, Rosa Sancarlo and Alex Neroth van Vogelpoel in Switzerland. Warm thanks go also to the editors and to the two anonymous readers for Art History. This publication is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 949836). Views and opinions expressed are, however, those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. This project was also funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation PRIMA grant.


Jean-Luc Marion, trans. Christina M. Gschwandter, ‘The Invisibility of the Saint’, Critical Inquiry, 35: 3, 2009, 703–710, quote p. 703.


Throughout this essay, I use the term ‘sainthood’ semi-inclusively, to refer to an official recognition by Rome that includes both beatification and canonisation. I use both the adjective ‘saintly’ and the noun ‘saint’ in the still more inclusive sense of having the properties and attributes of a canonised Catholic saint and commanding devotion as such, regardless of official status from a canonical point of view.


Lorenzo López Sanvicente [published anonymously], Los Procesos de Beatificacion de la Azucena de Quito, Quito, 1896, 8.


‘Juan, como me llevas tan encerrada, y olvidada llevandome peregrina, sacame, y ponme a vista de todos, que asi importa’. Statement given in Quito on 7 August 1725 by José Guerrero de Salazar. Archivio Apostolico Vaticano (hereinafter AAV), Cong. Riti Process. 2297, fol. 486v. The translation of ‘que así importa’ as ‘for so it is requisite’ is based on the translation of the same phrase as it appears in chapter9 of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda’s factitious second volume of Don Quijote, The Life and Exploits of the Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote, de la Mancha; containing his fourth sally, and the fifth part of his adventures, 3 vols, Swaffham, 1805, 1: 168. My warm thanks to Guillermo García Montúfar García and Lucía Querejazu Escobari for help with Spanish translations. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine.


AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2297, fols. 486v.–487r.


In patent contrast with the version of the episode presented in Mariana’s most important hagiography, Jacinto Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, que broto el florido campo de la Iglesia en las Indias Occidentales de los Reynos del Perú, y cultivò con los esmeros de su enseñança la Compañia de Jesus; La V. Virgen, Mariana de Jesus Paredes y Flores, Admirable en Virtudes, Profecias, y Milagros, Madrid, 1724, 413–415.


AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2297, fols. 486r.–486v.


See the chapter on Mariana’s humility in Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 288–295. The same author relates a qualified version of Mariana’s demand to Juan Guerrero de Salazar; the version of Mariana formulated in this account separates herself from her portrait and uses less peremptory language; Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 413.


Nina Niedermeier, Die ersten Bildnisse von Heiligen der frühen Neuzeit: Porträtähnlichkeit in nachtridentinischer Zeit, Regensburg, 2020, 79–158; Javier Portús Pérez, ‘Retrato, humildad y santidad en el Siglo de Oro’, Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 54: 1, 1999, 169–188.


Martha Moffitt Peaco*ck, ‘Mirrors of Skill and Renown: Women and Self-Fashioning in Early Modern Dutch Art’, Mediaevistik, 28, 2015, 325–352; Adam Jasienski, ‘Converting Portraits: Repainting as Art-Making in the Early Modern Hispanic World’, Art Bulletin, 102: 1, 2020, 7–30, esp. 13–14.


Olarán’s letter specifies that the public cult offered by the ‘Zelantes Misioneros’ is problematic for Rome in particular (‘inconvenientes, que para aqui son grandes’), with the suggestion that they are at least not unexpected where they are taking place. ‘[...] y entonces remitiré una instruccion para el modo que se deverá observar en su formacion [los nuevos procesos auctoritate Apostolica] ya que en los formados, auctoritate Ordinaria, ay bastantes nitidades, las que con el culto que se presta, aun formando Altares con sus luces encendidas por alguno de los Zelantes Misioneros causan summo perjuicio, y para salvar, estos inconvenientes, que para aqui son grandes, se abrá de tomar algun medio determino sobre el que se pensara en los Congresos que se tendran luego que esten en nuestras manos las animadversiones [...]’. Notarised copy of a letter from Bartolomé de Olarán in Rome to Juan Nieto Polo del Aguila in Quito, 26 May 1757. Archivo Nacional del Ecuador, Notaria 1/Corte Suprema/General/Religiosos, Caja 25, Expediente 3, fol. 5r-5v. On Juan Nieto Polo del Aguila’s episcopate, see Federico González Suárez, Historia General de la República del Ecuador, 7 vols, Quito, 1890–1903, 5: 168–202.


For the non cultu portion of Mariana de Jesús’s beatification process, see AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2298, with a standard questionnaire on fols. 15v.–16v.


Miguel Gotor, I beati del papa: santità, inquisizione e obbedienza in età moderna, Florence, 2002, esp. 285–418; Ruth S. Noyes, Peter Paul Rubens and the Counter-Reformation Crisis of the Beati Moderni, London, 2018; María Victoria Hernández Rodríguez, ‘Imágenes celestiales. El valor de la imagen en los procesos de beatificación y canonización’, Atlante: Revue d’études romanes 15, 2021, 1–16.


Leon Battista Alberti, trans. Cecil Grayson, On Painting, London, 1991, 60.


My analysis builds on the magisterial recent treatment of the intersections between portraiture and sanctity in Adam Jasienski, Praying to Portraits: Audience, Identity, and the Inquisition in the Early Modern World, University Park, 2023.


‘[...] y sacando [Juan Guerrero de Salazar] dho retrato [de Mariana] le coloco Viernes de mañana sobre el Altar en que se celebrava Misa por el capellan de el Nabio, y preguntando por el Capittan, Capellan, y demas pasajeros cuyo era el retrato les informó de todo lo referido [...]’. AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2297, fol. 486v. The word that I have transcribed as a misspelled ‘Capittan’ may be instead a mistaken repetition of the word ‘Capellan’.


As rightly pointed out by Felipe Pereda, Crime and Illusion: The Art of Truth in The Spanish Golden Age, London, 2017, 106–113; see also Martin Gaier, Jeanette Kohl, and Alberto Saviello, eds, Similitudo: Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Paderborn, 2012.


Pereda, Crime and Illusion; Gaier etal., Similitudo; Jasienski, Praying to Portraits; Adam Jasienski, ‘Entre el retrato y la imagen sagrada: el caso de Eugenia de la Torre’, in En las sombras del Barroco. Una mirada introspectiva, ed. Adrián Contreras-Guerrero, Ángel Justo-Estebaranz, and Fernando Quiles García, Seville, 2023, 17–52; Maria H. Loh, ‘Renaissance Faciality’, Oxford Art Journal, 32: 3, 2009, 341–363; Urte Krass, ‘A Case of Corporate Identity: The Multiplied Face of Saint Antonio of Florence’, Representations, 131, 2015, 1–21; Helen Hills, ‘“The Face is a Mirror of the Soul”: Frontispieces and the Production of Sanctity in Post-Tridentine Naples’, Art History, 31: 4, 2008, 547–573; Mindy Nancarrow, ‘Mariana de Jesús and the Problem of Portrait Likeness’, Mediterranean Studies, 12, 2003, 111–131. Note that Nancarrow’s essay addresses the Mercedarian Beata Mariana de Jesús (1565–1624), born Mariana Navarro Romero.


In this connection, Mariana’s case further bears out Adam Jasienski’s argument as to the potency of an image and its treatment to substantially change the status of the person depicted. Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 149.


Marion, ‘Invisibility of the Saint’, 703.


Meaning, born in the Americas but of Spanish parentage.


For concise biographical information and bibliography on Mariana de Jesús, see Fernando Hidalgo Nistri, ‘Santa Mariana de Jesús’, in Real Academia de la Historia, Diccionario biográfico electrónico (, accessed 26 August 2022).


Adam Jasienski, ‘Converting Portraits’, 8; see the fuller treatment of the question in Jasienski, Praying to Portraits.


As Kenneth Mills observes, ‘there is no one story to tell about the development of Catholic Christianities in colonial South America, but there are several, many with images of Catholic Christian saints at their heart.’ Kenneth Mills, ‘Religious Imagination in the Viceroyalty of Peru’, in The Virgin, Saints, and Angels. South American Paintings 1600–1825 from the Thoma Collection, ed. Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt, Stanford, 2006, 27–40, quote p. 33.


Ronald J. Morgan, ‘Just like Rosa: History and Metaphor in the Life of a Seventeenth-century Peruvian Saint’, Biography, 21: 3, 1998, 275–310; Ronald J. Morgan, Spanish American Saints and the Rhetoric of Identity, 1600–1810, Tucson, 2002, 99–118; Carmen de Tena Ramírez, ‘Mortificación y martirio. La espiritualidad de los jesuitas en la imagen de santa Mariana de Jesús, Azucena de Quito’, in A la luz de Roma. Santos y santidad en el barroco iberoamericano, ed. Fernando Quiles García, José Jaime García Bernal, Paolo Broggio, and Marcello fa*giolo dell’Arco, 3 vols, Seville, 2020, 2: 291–312; Elena Manchado Rodríguez, ‘Dibujar con buril y pluma: la iconografía textual y visual de Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (1618–1645) y su circulación transatlántica (siglos XVII-XVIII)’, Hipogrifo, 9.1, 2021, 639–656.


Fernando Quiles García, ‘Cerca del cielo. La creación de los santos y su imagen en la América hispana’, SEMATA, Ciencias Sociais e Humanidades, 24, 2012, 89–109.


On the history of the space and its transformation from Mariana’s cuarto into the upper choir of the Carmelite church of the Carmen Alto, see José Gabriel Navarro, Contribuciones a la Historia del Arte en el Ecuador, 4 vols, Quito, 1925–1952, 3: 179–198.


Tena Ramírez, ‘Mortificación y martirio’; Manchado Rodríguez, ‘Dibujar con buril y pluma’; María de los Ángeles Fernández Valle, ‘De Roma a las Indias: Religiosidad y circulación de estampas de la Azucena de Quito’, in Arte y Patrimonio en Iberoamérica. Tráficos Transoceánicos, ed. Inmaculada Rodríguez Moya, María de los Ángeles Fernández Valle, and Carme López Calderón, Castellón de la Plana, 2016, 135–155; Manuel Patricio Guerra, ‘Santa Mariana de Jesús en el arte Quiteño’, Revista del Instituto de Historia Eclesiástica Ecuatoriana, 16, 1996, 87–92.


See Susan Verdi Webster, Lettered Artists and the Language of Empire: Painters and the Profession in Early Colonial Quito, Austin, 2017, esp. 161–162.


‘Tengo por muy verosimil aver sido uno de los Pintores que la retrataron el Venerable Hermano Hernando, pues lo era excelentissimo, y la tuvo siempre muy estampada en su corazon: muchos retratos ay en la Provincia, y todos los que he visto estan conformes, assi en el trage de Jesuita, como en la peregrina belleza de su cara; porque esta fue en agradable proporcion abultada, blanca, apacible, y cariñosa, los ojos negros, grandes, y rasgados, la frente, ni muy espaciosa, ni muy breve, las zejas negras, tendidas, y pobladas las mexillas, con un color tan rosado, que puso por dissimulo el Divino Pintor à su penitencia, la nariz con moderacion delgada, pequeña la boca, como que huviesse sido delineada para breve epilogo, en que formasse las alabanças de su Criador.’ Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 398.


Since the Society of Jesus did not have a uniform vestment, it is an open question to what extent the reference to Mariana’s ‘Jesuit costume’ was part of her cult’s appropriation by the Society.


Alexandra Kennedy Troya, ‘La escultura en el Virreinato de Nueva Granada y la Audiencia de Quito’, in Pintura, escultura y artes útiles en Iberoamérica, 1500–1825, ed. Ramón Gutiérrez, Madrid, 1995, 237–255, esp. 239–244.


Applying here again a principle deftly formulated by Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 149.


Susan Verdi Webster, ‘Shameless Beauty and Worldly Splendor: On the Spanish Practice of Adorning the Virgin’, in The Miraculous Image in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Erik Thunø and Gerhard Wolf, Rome, 249–271.




In this connection, Saint Mary Magdalene is the paradigmatic example. See for instance, María Cruz de Carlos Varona, ‘Saints and Sinners in Madrid and Naples: Saint Mary Magdalene as a Model of Conversion and Penance’, in Jusepe de Ribera’s Mary Magdalene in a New Context, ed. Gabriele Finaldi and Elena Cenalmor Bruquetas, Dallas, 2011, 79–90.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York, 2000, 233.


‘Le biografie rivelano sia l’impotenza a descrivere gli stati mistici, sia la delusione di fissare in immagini inadeguate l’incanto di vicende semplici ancorché profonde, sia l’indisponibilità a uscire dalla prigione dei modelli costitutivi della figura di santo.’ Romeo de Maio, ‘L’ideale eroico nei processi di canonizzazione della controriforma’, Ricerche di storia sociale e religiosa, 2, 1972, 139–160, quote on p 158.


As ably discussed by Urte Krass, ‘Heilige im Reich der Unähnlichkeit. Zum Phänomen des mit Porträtzügen beliehenen Heiligenbildes in der ersten Hälfte des Cinquecento’, in Similitudo: Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, ed. Martin Gaier, Jeanette Kohl, and Alberto Saviello, Paderborn, 2012, 145–162.


Rudolf Preimesberger, Hannah Baader, and Nicola Suthor, eds, Porträt, Frankfurt am Main, 1999.


Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 21–52.


Pliny the Elder, Natural History, ed. and trans. Harris Rackham, Cambridge, MA, 1961, Book XXXV; Sarah Blake McHam, Pliny and the Artistic Culture of the Italian Renaissance: The Legacy of the Natural History, New Haven, 2013. See also Mary Rogers, ‘The Decorum of Women’s Beauty: Trissino, Firenzuola, Luigini and the Representation of Women in Sixteenth-Century Painting,’ Renaissance Studies, 2: 1, 1988, 47–88; Elizabeth Cropper, ‘On Beautiful Women, Parmigianino, Petrarchismo, and the Vernacular Style,’ Art Bulletin, 58: 3, 1976, 374–394; Chiara Gauna, ‘Giudizi e polemiche intorno a Caravaggio e Tiziano nei trattati d’arte spagnoli del XVII secolo: Carducho, Pacheco e la tradizione artistica italiana,’ Ricerche di Storia dell’Arte, 64, 1998, 57–78.


Gabriele Paleotti, Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images, trans. William McCuaig, Los Angeles, 2012, 212–214; see also Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 69–81.


As noted by María José Pinilla Martín, Iconografía de Santa Teresa de Jesús, Valladolid, 2013, 32–37. See also Jerónimo Gracián, ed. Juan Luis Astigarra, ‘Escolias del P. Jeronimo Gracian a la Vida de Santa Teresa compuesta por el P. Ribera,’ Ephemerides Carmeliticae, 32, 1981/2, 342–430, on pp. 425–427; Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 73–81; Pereda, Crime and Illusion, 107–108.


Jasienski, ‘Entre el retrato y la imagen sagrada’, esp. 24–27.


As is also the case in the portraits of Madre Jerónima de la Asunción, O.S.C., by Diego Velázquez, itself a forthright evocation of Teresa’s verdadero retrato; Tanya Tiffany, Early Paintings and the Culture of Seventeenth-Century Seville, University Park, 2012, 49–76, 168–177.


Verdi Webster, Lettered Artists, 177–179.


Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion, New York, 1992; Catherine Hahn, ‘Seeing and Believing: The Construction of Sanctity in Early-Medieval Saints’ Shrines,’ Speculum, 72, 1997, 1079–1106; James Robinson, Lloyd de Beer, and Anna Harndon, eds, Matter of Faith: An Interdisciplinary Study of Relics and Relic Veneration in the Medieval Period, London, 2014; Livia Stonescu, ed., The Interaction of Art and Relics in Late Medieval and Early Modern Art, Turnhout, 2020. On Mariana de Jesús specifically, see Laura Liliana Vargas Murcia, ‘Construcción, circulación y uso de una imagen. El caso de la Azucena de Quito’, in Visiones renovadas del Barroco iberoamericano, ed. María del Pilar López and Fernando Quiles García, Seville, 2016, 1: 134–145, p. 137; Fernando Quiles García, ‘Cerca del cielo’ 100, 106.


Fernández Valle, ‘De Roma a las Indias’, 143, 147.


Apparently an account taken from the procesos in 1749: ‘(...) queriendo sacar el retrato de la sierva de Dios, después de muerta (...) tirando las líneas repetidas veces, nunca pudo sacar la imagen de la sierva de Dios como la tenía ideada, hasta que cansado, puso la vista en el santo Cristo que está en el coro, que es el que se saca al presente en el viernes para devoción de las tres horas, se puso a copiar en la misma tabla al santo crucifijo, y repentinamente se halló con la imagen de la sierva de Dios que antes no había podido sacar.’ José Jouanen, Vida de la bienaventurada Mariana de Jesús, llamada la Azucena de Quito, Quito, 1941, 295; quoted in Fernández Valle, ‘De Roma a las Indias’, 143.


Javier Portús Pérez, ‘Verdadero retrato y copia fallida. Leyendas en torno a la reproducción de imágenes sagradas’, in La imagen religiosa en la Monarquía hispánica. Usos y espacios, ed. María Cruz de Carlos Varona, Pierre Civil, Felipe Pereda, and Cécile Vincent-Cassy, Madrid, 2008, 241–254.


Tena Ramírez, ‘Mortificación y martirio’; Manchado Rodríguez, ‘Dibujar con buril y pluma’.


See the compelling analysis of a comparable image in Pereda, Crime and Illusion, 113.


Serge Gruzinski, ‘Art History and Iberian Worldwide Diffusion: Westernization/Globalization/Americanization’, in Circulations in the Global History of Art, ed. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin, and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, London, 2015, 47–58, quote p. 52.


Verdi Webster, Lettered Artists, 185–210.


On the evolution of this approach, see Krass, ‘Heilige im Reich der Unähnlichkeit’; Krass, ‘A Case of Corporate Identity’.


Helen Hills, ‘Demure Transgression: Portraying Female “Saints” in Post-Tridentine Italy’, Early Modern Women, 3: 3, 2008, 153–207.


Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 132–137, esp. 134.


Lidia Bianchi and Diega Giunta, Iconografia di S. Caterina da Siena, 2 vols, Rome, 1988–2002, 1: 89–128; Frank Graziano, Wounds of Love: The Mystical Marriage of Saint Rose of Lima, Oxford, 2004, 50–51.


Nancy E. Van Deusen, Embodying the Sacred: Women Mystics in Seventeenth-century Lima, Durham, NC, 2018, 23–47.


Graziano, Wounds of Love, 50–53.


As noted by Manchado Rodríguez, ‘Dibujar con buril y pluma’, 647, who cites Morán de Butrón: ‘... pues el rumbo que tomò Santa Rosa para llegar à la altura de perfeccion, á que ascendiò, que fue la imitacion de esta Serafica Santa [Catalina de Sena], esse mismo tomò Mariana para engolfarse en el oceano de la vida espiritual. Con tan Soberano original por delante, es impossible, que no sacasse à lo menos un bosquexo; y bosquexo de la santidad de Santa Catalina, puede servir de dibuxo à la perfeccion mas acendrada. Maestra fue esta Santa de Santa Rosa: muriò Rosa, pero dexò por Substituto en lugar suyo, que atendiesse à su enseñanza, como Discipula de entrambas, à la Azucena de Quito, quien sino mereciò tantos favores de Santa Catalina, como Santa Rosa; pero en su espiritu, y virtudes: similem reliquit post se.’ Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 240.


Graziano, Wounds of Love, 44–53.


Leonhard Hansen, Vida admirable y muerte preciosa de la Venerable Madre Soror Rosa de Santa Maria, Peruana, en Lima, de la Tercera Orden de Predicadores, Valencia, 1665.


Jasienski, Praying to Portraits.


James Hall, ‘Simulating and Appropriating the Sacred: The Background of a Papal Ban on Saintly Portraits of Non-Saints’, in Sacred Images and Normativity: Contested Forms in Early Modern Art, ed. Chiara Franceschini, Turnhout, 2021, 118–135; Jasienski, Praying to Portraits; Ruth S. Noyes, ‘On the Fringes of Center: Disputed Hagiographic Imagery and the Crisis over the Beati moderni in Rome ca. 1600’, Renaissance Quarterly, 64: 3, 800–846.


See for instance Matovelle, Documentos, viii-ix.


On the theme of replacement and inversion between a saintly individual’s portrait and a skull in the case of Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, see the compelling analysis in Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 118–122.


A landmark contribution to this question is Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, Chicago, 1996. Regarding the Andean context, see Gabriela Ramos, Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670, Notre Dame, 2010.


Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 101–107.


‘También la memoria continua de la muerte alentó a Sor Mariana a heroicos hechos. Para esto tenía hecha una muerte de bulto, de estatura entera, la cual llamaba ella su retrato, vestida con un hábito de San Francisco, que había de ser su mortaja. Esta muerte ponía en un ataúd, en que se había de enterrar. Junto a un espejo de cristal tenía otro mejor; era una cabeza humana a medio corromperse, horrible y espantosa, pintada en un lienzo, para que si alguna vez le viniesse al pensamiento mirarse al espejo, se mirase en este de sus desengaños. Y muchas veces llegaba al ataúd donde estaba el esqueleto de la muerte, y le echaba agua bendita, diciendo assí: Dios te perdone, Mariana.’ Diego de Córdova y Salinas, ed. Lino Gómez Canedo, Crónica Franciscana de las provincias del Perú, Washington, D.C., 1957, (orig. Lima, 1651), 961.


Reprinted in José Julio María Matovelle, Documentos para la historia de la Beata Mariana de Jesús Azucena de Quito, Quito, 1902, pp i-xxxvi, following p 403. See also Hernán Rodríguez Castelo, ‘Rojas, Alonso de’, in Real Academia de la Historia, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico (, accessed 5 Sept 2022).


Ronald J. Morgan, ‘Martyrdoms Far and Near: The Jesuit Global Imaginary in the Life of Quito’s Local “Saint,” Mariana de Jesús (1618–45)’, Illes i Imperis, 19, 2017, 7–33.


Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 119.


Pilar Andueza Unanua, ‘La Vera Effigies de San Francisco Javier: la creación de una imagen postridentina’, in San Francisco Javier en las Artes. El Poder de la Imagen, ed. Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Javier, 2006, 96–119.


‘Pintó también muchas representaciones de la muerte con esta inscripción: Haec est pulchritudo humana’. Vargas, Historia de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, 160.


Matovelle, Documentos, i.


See the discussion of the term retocar in Jasienski, ‘Converting Portraits’, 12–16.


Quiles García, ‘Cerca del cielo’, 100. See also the discussion of early modern hagiographic vera effigies in Niedermeier, Porträtähnlichkeit, esp. 221–296.


Peter Parshall, ‘Imago Contrafacta: Images and Facts in the Northern Renaissance’, Art History, 16, 1993, 554–579; Portús Pérez, ‘Verdadero retrato y copia fallida’; Marta Cacho Casal, ‘The “True Likenesses” in Francisco Pacheco’s Libro de retratos’, Renaissance Studies, 24: 3, 2010, 381–406; Pereda, Crime and Illusion, esp. 95–119; Jasienski, Praying to Portraits, 53–90.


Fernando Quiles, ‘Cerca del cielo’, 100. Vital background and further bibliography are in Laura Liliana Vargas Murcia, ‘Aspectos generales de la estampa en el Nuevo Reino de Granada (siglo XVI-principios del siglo XIX)’, Fronteras de la Historia, 14: 2, 2009, 256–281; and Kelly Donahue-Wallace, ‘Printmakers in Eighteenth-Century Mexico City: Francisco Sylverio, José Mariano Navarro, José Benito Ortuño, and Manuel Galicia de Villavicencio,’ Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 78, 2001, 221–234.


‘De este retrato [de Mariana pintado por Fray Hernando de la Cruz] se han sacado muchas copias para todo el Reyno, y el de Lima, y se han hecho cinco impreciones de estampas de papel, tres en Quito, y dos en Roma, todas dedicadas a Princessas tres, y las demas a Illustres personas.’ Statement given in Guayaquil on 22 April 1747 by Jacinto Morán de Butrón, S.J. AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2295, fol. 249r.


See for instance AAV, Cong. Riti Process. 2298, fol. 89v; Cong. Riti Process. 2295, fols. 167r-167v, 206r.-207r., 208v.-209r., 257v., 288v.


Prov. 31:30, NRSV.


‘Tenía la sierva suya el rostro pálido y macilento con las muchas vigilias, penitencias y ayunos; reparaban sus amigas en ello y, por las señales exteriores, colegían la causa de ellas; afligíase Mariana de que la tuviesen por penitente, pidió con instancia en la oración á Nuestro Señor el remedio, y otro día salió en público con el rostro lleno y sonrosado con velos de color, con que Dios disimuló sus virtudes; diéronle el parabién las amigas de su mejoría y ella quedó muy contenta con su disimulo’. Matovelle, Documentos, xiv-xv; see also Córdova y Salinas, Crónica Franciscana, 961.


Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 167. See also Manchado Rodríguez, ‘Dibujar con buril y pluma’, 647.


‘Rara especie! Por huìr de la hypocresia, querer parecer hypocrita’. Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 170.


‘Sagrada hypocresia la de esta Virgen en parecer lo que no era; pero què tan al contrario de la del Mundo!’ Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 171.


Pedro de Ribadeneyra, Flos Sanctorum, o libro de las vidas de los Santos, Madrid, 1604, 377; Hansen, Vida Admirable, 11–12; Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 167–173.


Klaus Krüger, Das Bild als Schleier des Unsichtbaren. Ästhetische Illusion in der Kunst der Frühen Neuzeit in Italien, Munich, 2001.


‘... y quando esta bendita Virgen no huviera recibido de su Esposo otro favor, era bastante este para decir aver sido su vida toda un prodigio, y su cara un repetido, y continuado milagro.’ Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 171.


‘Pintor es tan Divino, que sabrà retocar mi cara, con tal arte, que por ella ni parezca penitente, ni me tengan por Santa, como han juzgado.’ Morán de Butrón, La Azucena de Quito, 169–170.


Carmen Fernández-Salvador, ‘Imágenes locales y retórica sagrada: una visión edificante de Quito en el siglo XVII’, Procesos: Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia, 25: 1, 2007, 79–91; Carmen Fernández-Salvador, ‘Palabras que pintan y pinturas que hablan: Retórica e imágenes en el Quito colonial (siglos XVII y XVIII)’, in Las artes en Quito en el cambio del siglo XVII al XVIII, ed. Alfonso Ortiz Crespo, Quito, 2009, 209–239; Carmen Fernández-Salvador, Encuentros y desencuentros con la frontera imperial. La iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús de Quito y la misión en el Amazonas (siglo XVII), Madrid, 2018.


As this applied to Quito, see Fernández-Salvador, ‘Imágenes locales y retórica sagrada’; Fernández-Salvador, ‘Palabras que pintan y pinturas que hablan’.


Marion, ‘Invisibility of the Saint’, 704.


Jasienski, Praying to Portraits; see also Christopher Nygren, Titian’s Icons: Tradition, Charisma, and Devotion in Renaissance Italy, University Park, 2020.

Hannah Joy Friedman is an art historian specialising in the period 1400–1700 in Europe, especially Spain and Italy, with recent research expanding to Quito and Lima. She is currently working on images of unsuccessful early modern candidates for sainthood in and from the Viceroyalty of Peru, as well as completing a book on the artist Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652) with the title Virtuous Subterfuge: Jusepe de Ribera and the Art of Judgment.

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The Invisible Sainthood of Mariana de Jesús Paredes y Flores (2024)
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