HISPANIC SOCIETY OF AMERICA ACQUIRES AN JOSE CAMPECHE PAINTING
JOSE CAMPECHE PORTRAIT OF MARIA CATALINA DE URRITIA
The Hispanic Society of America is delighted to present the recent acquisition of a portrait of María Catalina de Urrutia by José Campeche, a celebrated Puerto Rican artist from the eighteenth-century. Campeche was the son of an Afro-Hispanic freedman who worked as a gilder, decorator, and painter; his mother was from the Canary Islands. Campeche trained from childhood as an artist and a musician. In 1775, he met Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799), one of the most important artists in Spain, who had been exiled to Puerto Rico. Paret taught Campeche the then-prevalent Rococo style, and Campeche adopted Paret’s fluid and lively yet precise brushwork and luminous colors. Campeche’’s small-scale portraits, especially those showing elegantly dressed ladies, are considered his finest works.
The sitter of the painting, María Catalina de Urrutia, was a member of an important Cuban criollo (locally born of European descent) landowning family. She married Juan Dabán, Governor of Puerto Rico, not long before this portrait was painted. Doña María is shown in the Rococo salon of the Governor’s palace in San Juan, dressed in the dernier cri of French fashions. Four years later, in 1792, Campeche painted another version of the same composition, but including Doña María’s young son (today at the Museo de Arte de Ponce).
Jose Campeche, by Elaine Grisante, Curator