Our Lady of Guápulo
A masterpiece created by an unknown Peruvian painter in the 1700s graces this year’s religious Christmas postage stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.
The stamp features a detail from a large oil on canvas painting titled Our Lady of Guápulo. The original painting is more than 5 feet high and 3 feet wide and hangs in Gallery 757 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Painted in the 18th century by an unknown artist in Cuzco, Peru, the painting – which is actually based on a copy of a sculpture – features an enrobed Virgin Mary in a pyramidal gown speckled with jewels and holding a scepter woven with roses and leaves. The crowned figure looks down at a similarly adorned Christ Child in her left arm. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp.
The stamp was dedicated October 20 in a first day ceremony and is being sold in double-sided panes of 20 (booklet). The first day of issue postmark is New York, N.Y.
Our Lady of Guápulo, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, artist unknown.
Angela Curtis, vice president in charge of Retail and Post Office Operations for the Postal Service hosted the stamp’s dedication in a virtual ceremony on Facebook (above).
“Between the 16th and 18th centuries European painters worked with indigenous artists in and around Cuzco, Peru, teaching them the styles and forms that were popular in Europe,” Curtis said. “The paintings in Cuzco reflected the influence of late Renaissance and Baroque eras as well as the native Peruvian, many of whom were of Incan descent.”
Tey Marianna Nunn, director and chief curator at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Art Museum, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also took part in the virtual dedication.
She noted that “Our Lady Guápulo” is a classic example of the unique Cuzco (or Cusco) style of panting that existed in the 16th through 18th centuries and continues to influence artists today.
“One of my favorite elements of the Cuzcos style of painting,” Nunn said, “is the Baroque attention the artist paid to every detail, from the Virgin’s delicate veil to the lace that embellishes both her gown and that of her child. The elaborate patterning and fine painting techniques are simply amazing."
Cuzco (or Cusco), a city in the Peruvian Andes in southeastern Peru, was once capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. The Cuzco School was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition during the Colonial period, in the 16th through 18th centuries.
The museum’s description of the painting said the “richly dressed and adorned sculpture depicted in this work originated as a copy of the Spanish Virgin of Guadalupe, commissioned in 1584 by a confraternity of merchants in Quito (Ecuador).” That sculpture was created by Spanish artist Diego de Robles.
Guápulo is a parish of Quito, nearly 2,000 miles away from Cuzco. It also is home to the Our Lady of Guápulo Franciscan Sanctuary built in the second half of the 17th century.
The painting is named for the sanctuary “where the miracle-working image was venerated,” the museum said, adding that “it was invoked by devotees who sought the Virgin Mary’s aid and protection.”
“During last quarter of the 17th century, a painted copy of the sculpture was carried throughout the Andes on a mission to gather alms for the construction of a new sanctuary, resulting in a demand for locally produced copies like this one by a Cuzco painter,” the museum’s description said.
The painting from which the stamp image was cropped shows the full length of Mary, who is holding a rose, an emblem of her deep love of God, according to Catholic tradition. It includes the framed faces of six cherubs – not seen on the stamp – looking out from the bottom of the artwork.
This column was originally published in part in the December 2020 issue of The American Philatelist.