A beautiful example of 1700s fine art came out of the closet this week for a special holiday showing at the Palace of the Governors. This week, movers placed Juan Correa’s painting The Nativity (otherwise known as THE mother and child) on a wall in the main entry of the Palace.
Part of the New Mexico History Museum’s Iberian Collection — 70 paintings and three bultos from 17th- and 18th-century Mexico and South America — The Nativity was one of several canvases that once formed an altar screen dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The screen itself was probably 25-35 feet high and 20 feet wide.
Its painter was one of the masters of the Baroque painting period in Mexico. He was born to a prominent mixed-race physician from Cádiz and a free black woman from Mexico City. He and his workshop were extremely productive and produced countless pictures. He had several prestigious commissions that spanned the Spanish colonies.
Altogether, the Iberian collection includes master artists such as José de Páez and José del Castillo from Mexico, and Diego Tito, an Incan painter from Peru.
The paintings were once in the private collection of Charles Wood Collier and Nina Perera Collier, who collected the pieces while in South America and Mexico. In 1958, they founded the International Institute of Iberian Colonial Art to preserve their growing collection, which had decorated the walls of Los Luceros in northern New Mexico. (The couple purchased the property in the 1960s and entertained the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe at it.)
Several years ago, the collection was donated to the Palace of the Governors. The needs to conduct conservation work on the pieces, as well as the Palace’s comparatively tight spaces, have delayed their display.
But, for now, and at least for awhile, Correa’s Nativity spreads its rich warmth. Enjoy it during Dec. 11’s Christmas at the Palace event. Combine it with a quiet, meditative visit to the Tesoros de Devocion exhibit, also in the Palace; Tesoros celebrates the artistry of New Mexico’s own santeros.
The holiday season can be rough-and-tumble and too often focused on spending and shopping. Feed your soul instead. We have a few ways up to do so – and you deserve each and every one of them.