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With Portrait of the Daughter of the First Colonizer of Texas

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35.     [AZLOR Y ECHEVERZ, MARÍA IGNACIA]. Relación histórica de la fundación de este convento de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Compañia de María, llamada vulgarmente La Enseñanza, en esta ciudad de México, y compendio de la vida y virtudes de N.M.R.M. María Ignacia Azlor y Echeverz su fundadora y patrona. Dedicada á La Serenísima Reyna de los Ángeles María Santísima del Pilar. Á Expensas de su sobrino el Señor Don Pedro Ignacio de Escheverz Azlor Espinal y Valdivielso, Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo y Santa Olaya, Caballero del Órden de Santiago, y Alguacil Mayor del Real Consejo y Corte de Navarra. Mexico: Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, calle del Espíritu Santo, año de 1793. [10], ii, 165 [1, blank] [2, table of contents] pp., copper-engraved plate: R. de la M. R.M. María Ignacia de Azlor, y Echeverz, Fundadora Patrona, y Prelada del Convento de la Sagrada Compañia de María Sma. de la Enseñanza de México. Rea. Sc. (portrait of Azlor standing at her work table resting one hand on a stack of books and the other holding a manuscript); 2 wood-engraved ornaments on p. 1 (headpiece and initial). 4to (21 x 16.8 cm), contemporary full green and tan Mexican tree sheep, spine extra gilt with gilt-lettered red morocco label, sprinkled edges (neatly re-cased and new marbled endpapers). Spine ends and joints lightly rubbed, light shelf wear to bottom of boards, thin 5 cm strip of leather wanting on lower board (original minor defect). Upper and lower edges irregularly trimmed. Except for small tear in upper left gutter margin of title page (not affecting text), fine. Other than light marginal foxing, the engraved portrait of Azlor is excellent, in a very strong, crisp impression. Overall, a fine copy in a handsome contemporary Mexican binding.

     First edition of one of the few biographies of a woman of the eighteenth-century Spanish-Texas Borderlands. Beristáin 4(1)4. Bulletin of the New York Public Library (Vol. IX, 1905), “List of Books Relating to Woman,” pp. 535 & 581. Medina, México 8255 (commenting that he knew of only one copy, his own). Palau 259736. Sabin 21777 & 69226.

     Sor Azlor y Echeverz (1715-1755) was the daughter of the Marqués de Aguayo, governor of Coahuila y Tejas and first colonizer of Texas. Handbook of Texas Online: Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo: “The Aguayo expedition so solidified the Spanish claim to Texas that it was never again challenged by the French. When Aguayo entered Texas the province had only one presidio and two missions, one of which, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, had been established only a few months earlier under the patronage of the Marqués. When he left, Texas had four presidios and ten missions. Aguayo was also responsible for the beginnings of colonization in Texas.”

     After rejecting the marriage proposal of Conde de San Pedro de Alamo, María became a nun, using her considerable inheritance from the Mazapil mines to further the work of the Catholic Church in Mexico. The convent she founded was an early one in Mexico committed to the education of women (see Wagner, Spanish Southwest 83). The group of nuns who wrote the book declare: “The pious reader will be astonished to see that a group of unlettered women have had the spirit to undertake a work above their sex.” See Dicc. Porrúa: María Ignacia Azlor y Echeverz.

     The attractive, well-executed copper-engraved plate is the work of José Simón de Larrea (or La Rea), a significant practitioner of the art of engraving in colonial Mexico. See: Mathes, Illustration in Colonial Mexico, Woodcuts and Copper Engravings in New Spain 1539-1821 (Register 1793:8255): “[Larrea’s] principal work included, in 1793, a portrait of Madre María Ignacia Azlor y Echeverz, founder of the convent of Nuestra Señora del Pilar.” Romero de Terreros, Grabados y grabadores in la Nueva España, pp. 493-496. The engraving is mentioned by Kelly Donahue-Wallace in “Picturing Prints in Early Modern New Spain” (The Americas, Vol. 64, No. 3, January 2008, pp. 325-349). Donahue comments extensively and interestingly on the engraved portrait in comparing male and female monasticism in New Spain, (“Saintly Beauty and the Printed Portrait” in Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art, January 1, 2007):

The 1792 biography of another nun, Sor María Ignacia Azlor y Echeverz, founder of the Convent of the Holy Company of Mary and of Our Lady of the Pillar in Mexico City, better known as La Ensenanza, likewise explains that her painted portrait was easily executed but, like the others, was found wanting. The nuns of Azlor’s convent rejected the painting because “the painter did not capture her likeness….” Azlor’s printed biography did not employ the ugly or unsatisfactory painted portrait as the model for the engraved likeness and instead employed a different image. Azlor’s biographer apparently ordered engraver José Simón de la Rea to graft her likeness onto the figure and setting from the 1785 painted portrait of Sor María Ana Teresa Bonstet, La Enseñanza’s third prioress. Bonstet’s portrait, painted by Andrés López, located the nun in her office accompanied by the books and documents appropriate to her position as well as an engraving of the convent’s patroness, Zaragoza’s Virgin of the Pillar. This pastiche presumably sufficed to capture her entire likeness—or, better said, her virtue—as it was allowed to accompany her biography. In the same way, María Ynes’ beautiful image accompanied the printed text instead of a reproductive engraving of the aged and ugly painting…. Why did the hagiographic biographies represent female portraits as easy to paint yet wanting as likenesses whereas male portraits were difficult to paint but invariably successful as portraits? And why were the altered likenesses the ones used for the printed biographies? I argue that the difference between these stories of male and female portraits lies in the notion of ideal female monasticism.


Sold. Hammer: $1,700.00; Price Realized: $2,040.00


Auction 22 Abstracts

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