L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dressing up for Jesus - las monjas coronadas

A highly idiosyncratic art form from late viceregal New Spain, these large-scale paintings are pre-"profession" portraits of novices made shortly before they took their final vows; in reality, these are marriage portraits of the "brides of Christ". Apparently unique to Mexico, and most dating to the second half of the eighteenth century, they were commissioned by the young ladies' families as a mark of social and economic status; in this milieu, the young women were all from wealthy and socially prominent families. The underlying habits of the monjas coronadas, or crowned nuns, are often quite lavished accessorized, and the figures are usually adorned with symbolic and religious objects and talismans. In most cases there is text - relevant dates, information about the young woman and her family's position - included in the composition. This leyenda is most often found as a band at the bottom of the painting. 


And what could be more fabulous than flower-bedecked nuns? Maybe dead flower-bedecked nuns? These portraits, known as monjas muertas or monjas difuntas, are of important members of the monastic community. In most examples, the deceased is shown lying on her deathbed. Dressed in her habit, her eyes closed, she once again wears a flowered crown. In convent life, a nun's death was considered nearly as important as her profession because it symbolized much the same thing: a spiritual rebirth and, in the world beyond, a reunion with her bridegroom.

Unlike the rather generalized profession portraits, these seem much more particular and lifelike. ("Deadlike"?)
One of the more unusual examples that shows the deceased still alive.


  1. Wow, that's crazy! I love Mexican and Spanish art -- this is wonderful. The flowers..oh, those flowers...