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    Description

    NICOLAS ENRIQUEZ (Mexican, 1738-1770)
    The Grief of the Virgin (The Lamentation of Christ), 1766
    Oil on copper
    36-1/2 x 25-1/2 inches (92.7 x 64.8 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: Nicolaus Enriquez / Fac. Mexici Anno 1766

    PROVENANCE:
    Collection of Joseph H. Ayoub, El Paso.

    Nicolás Enríquez belongs to the 18th-century Golden Age of Mexican colonial painting. Born in either Guadalajara or Mexico City in the early 1700s, he produced an impressive number of devotional images in both locales for over fifty years, from roughly 1720 to 1775.1 From the scarce documentation of Enríquez's profession, it appears that he was an advocate for art education: together with the Guadalajara painter José de Ibarra and brothers Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez and Juan Rodríguez Juárez, Enríquez helped organize a painting academy in Mexico City in the 1720s, in response to growing discontent with the antiquated guild system.2 Art historian Manuel Toussaint, in his groundbreaking Colonial Art in Mexico, mentions Enríquez's eight panels of Scenes of the Passion, signed in Mexico City in 1768, and acknowledges that "[Enríquez's] reputation was high enough in his day."3 This renown was due additionally to the artist's active self-promotion: in 1787 an article in the Gazeta de Mexico advertised for sale twenty-five "aesthetic and delicate" copper paintings "by the famous Nicolás Enríquez."4

    Likely designed as a private devotional image, Enríquez's 1766 The Grief of the Virgin (The Lamentation of Christ) exemplifies the mid-18th-century stylistic shift in Mexican religious painting from detailed earthly narratives to more idealized heavenly evocations.5 Here, Enríquez employs sketchy brushwork and a soft earth-tone palette, rather than his earlier tight draftsmanship and bold coloration, in order to conjure up a mystical realm. The generic background and the figures' conventional drapery and uniform faces, with relatively little emotion, further point to an unearthly setting and allow the viewer, undistracted, to meditate upon the scene. Enríquez does create theatricality through his masterful handling of chiaroscuro, spotlighting the key elements of the Lamentation drama--the Virgin's face and uplifted hand and Christ's face, wounds, and shroud--while plunging the background into darkness. The diagonal orientation of the Pietà additionally effects drama and separates the two central characters from the lesser attendants.

    Although Enríquez was a prolific painter, his works have rarely reached the auction market. Notable institutions featuring his paintings include, in Mexico City, the Museo Nacional, the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas, the Museo Nacional de Historia, and the Pinacoteca Virreinal; the Museo de Guadalajara; the Denver Art Museum; the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa; the El Paso Museum of Art; and the University of Saint Thomas, Houston.

    1M. B. Burke, Treasures of Mexican Colonial Painting, Davenport, Iowa, 1998, p. 78.
    2C. Bargellini, R. R. Gomar, and D. Pierce, Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life 1521-1821, Denver, 2004, p. 69.
    3 M. Toussaint, Colonial Art in Mexico, Austin, 1967, p. 345.
    4M. Toussaint, Pintura Colonial en México, Mexico, 1982, p. 187.
    5Bargellini, et al., p. 52.


    Condition Report*: The paint film is completely stable and the signature is untouched; copper panel is moderately torqued, and there are two very minor, shallow dents in lower right corner; the painting has been professionally conserved and re-varnished; two areas of pentimenti are visible (the repositioning of the Virgin's hands and the repositioning of the ear of the left attendant); under UV examination, scattered and meticulously rendered pinpoint dots of in-painting (notably in the faces and bodies of the figures) are visible, as well as broader regions of in-painting (2.5 x 5" area in lower right corner; line along right edge and in upper left and upper right corners; 4" line in background of upper right quadrant; 3.5 x 1" area in Virgin's left mantle; 3 x 2" area on Christ's neck).
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    17th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,407

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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