"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, June 19, 2016

San Juan Nepomuceno

This c. 1798 portrait of San Juan Nepomunceno, John of Nepomuk, (c. 1345 – March 20, 1393) by José Campeche y Jordán hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.
"The halo of five stars around the head of San Juan Nepomuceno, the patron saint of confessors, spells out TACUI, Latin for "I was silent." The saint was martyred because he refused to divulge what he heard in confession; the letters rest on five stars that refer to the five wounds of Christ and link the saint's sacrifice to the Savior's. This painting reminded priests and their congregants of the seal of the confessional, which required both to hold their confessions in strict confidence.

Jose Campeché was a descendant of freed slaves who became an artist and architect. His work blends local folk traditions native to Puerto Rico with the high style imported From Europe. The ornate, hand-carved frame calls attention to the ambitions of the artist and the significance of his subject. The painting displays the strong influence of the Catholic Church in America's New Spain at a moment when the Spanish Empire's reach spanned the globe." -- Smithsonian American Art Museum

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