The devotion to the Virgin Mary as the Divine Shepherdess emerged in 1703 in Seville, Spain, and quickly gained a significant following. Missionaries carried this devotion to the Spanish American colonies, where they easily adapted the image of the Divine Shepherdess to various communities by conflating it with other Marian images. The statue of La Divina Pastora Hilandera, from the workshop of quiteño artist Bernardo de Legarda, combines the theme of the Divine Shepherdess with the European iconography of the Spinning Virgin, an image drawn from apocryphal stories of the Virgin’s childhood. The result is an entirely new artistic theme without European precedent. Scholarship has not yet fully explored the importance of this sculpture relative to its context, especially considering the complicated religious atmosphere of the Andes in the late colonial period. La Divina Pastora Hilandera would have been especially significant to viewers in 18th century Quito; it may be interpreted as representative of a syncretized religion.
The use and significance of the devotions in Europe to the Divine Shepherdess and the Spinning Virgin are compared and contrasted with the meaning of their conflation in the New World. An exploration of the social realities of colonial Quito helps to illuminate the meaning of the piece. The evaluation of the social and religious role of textiles in the pre-Christian community, as well as a consideration of the survival of native Andean cosmology despite Christian missionary efforts, both allow new insights into the interpretation of this work.
Marie Glackin, ’11
Majors: Art and Art History, Sociology
Sponsor: Christina Penn-Goetsch