Don Manuel Jose Rubio y Salinas, Archbishop of Mexico
Miguel Cabrera, Mexican, 1695–1768 Mexican
Height x width: 71 5/8 x 49 3/16 in. (181.9 x 124.9 cm)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
William J. Fitzgerald Gallery (Gallery 135)
Miguel Cabrera, a mestizo artist trained in Mexico City in a high European style, became the best-known painter in Mexico under the patronage of Archbishop Manuel José Rubio y Salinas (1703–1765). Born in Spain, Rubio y Salinas was a leading figure in the Jesuit church and was appointed archbishop of Mexico in 1748, a post with considerable political power. Inspired by Cabrera’s depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Rubio y Salinas was also instrumental in the process of establishing her as the Patroness of New Spain.
With iconography derived from European tradition, Cabrera depicted his benefactor with an air of authority appropriate to the leader of Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church. Resplendent in his red cape, a cappa magna (grand cope), worn only by cardinals, bishops, and canons, Rubio y Salinas is seated in a carved baroque-style chair, reminiscent of a throne, and similar to a cathedra, a ceremonial bishop’s chair, that would be found in a church. A sumptuously jeweled pectoral cross hangs down his chest. To his right, a polychrome crucifix on a silver base sits on a table, behind which a miter (liturgical headdress) and crozier (staff) are visible, the traditional emblems of a bishop. Rubio y Salinas has removed his right glove, probably to show the episcopal ring on his hand, further emphasizing his powerful role in the church. Cabrera used the reds of the background drapery, garments, and furniture to create a rich image, with sparkling highlights on the silver, jewelry, miter, and crozier.
Cabrera made numerous portraits of Rubio y Salinas with similar attributes; these paintings were distributed as a sign of respect and authority to various religious institutions, including churches, hospitals, and convents, all of which Rubio y Salinas oversaw. According to the lengthy inscription in the cartouche at lower left, this version was executed for a convent, as yet unidentified. It is the earliest of Cabrera’s portraits. Other surviving examples, all in Mexico, include one in the National Museum of the Viceroyalty in Tepotzotlán, one in the Chapter Hall of the Parish of Santa Prisco in Taxco, and four in the National Cathedral in Mexico City.