|Reproduction only for non-commercial use.||
© October 2004; revised 7 August 2006
|Portraits of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz|
Two of the following portraits were orginally displayed on the she-philosopher.com PLAYERS page, where they were layered, along with their accompanying captions, as rollovers. This meant that caption text (because formatted as images) was not searchable, and that the portraits of Sor Juana were limited to a single size and resolution.
Because of growing visitor interest in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, I have decided to move the layered images here, where they can be broken apart, supplemented by additional portraits, and captioned in HTML.
At the moment, this makes for a rather short, and somewhat strangely themed Gallery Exhibit, with its shift in focus from what was originally cast as “a brief look at global scientific networks in Baroque Mexico” to portraiture.
And the content of this exhibit will continue to evolve, as related
are added as planned to she-philosopher.com.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (16511695)
By an unknown artist.
View an enlarged 790 x 1039 pixel JPG image (340KB)
Sor Juana in her book-lined closet, reading
from Ingrid Rowland’s
The Ecstatic Journey (2000):
Kircher’s “tiny book on magnetism, Nature’s Magnetic Kingdom [Magneticum naturae regnum], is dedicated to Alejandro Fabiani, a Mexican priest of Genoese ancestry. Its small size may have been designed for easy shipment to the Americas, but it is worth noting that Kircher’s large books also made their way to the New World. For example, portraits of the brilliant and talented Mexican nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, show her in her library, posed before a collection in which Kircher’s works enjoy pride of place.”
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (16511695), by Miguel Cabrera.
Shown in her library, with its multiple Kircher titles.
It is estimated that Sor Juana’s library, one of the finest in the Americas, held between 2,000 and 3,000 titles.
View an enlarged 830 x 1171 pixel JPG image (339KB)
Detail from portrait by Miguel Cabrera.
Shows a few of the book titles in Sor Juana’s extensive library. None of the titles shown here are by Kircher.
Detail from portrait by Miguel Cabrera.
Sor Juana in her book-lined closet, writing
|As Octavio Paz notes, “intelectuales y eruditos como ... sor Juana” were not the only ones influenced by Kircher in the Baroque Americas. “En la obra de Kircher confluyen tres corrientes opuestas: el catolicismo sincretista tal como lo representaba en el siglo XVII la Compañía de Jesús, el hermetismo neoplatonico ‘egipcio’ heredado del Renacimiento y las nuevas concepciones y descubrimientos astronómicos y físicos. Kircher ofrecía a sus lectores, más que una síntesis de estos elementos contradictorios, una superposición de hechos, ideas y fantasías. Extraordinaria amalgama de saber y delirio razonante, su obra fascinó al siglo XVII. En Nueva España su influencia no se limitó a sor Juana. El testamento de Sigüenza y Góngora atestigua su popularidad.”
Furthermore, “El caso de Kircher es extremo pero no único. La mezcla entre las creencias e ideas del neoplatonismo hermético, la alquimia, la Cabala y las nociones de la nueva ciencia fue una característica general del siglo XVII. Pocos espíritus fueron inmunes a la fascinación de Mercurio Trismegisto y los jeroglíficos egipcios.” (Octavio Paz, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, o, las trampas de la fe 238)
The concept of la mezcla was central to the Baroque mindset around the globe. Throughout the 17th century, Kircherian-style philosophical hybrids dominated the arts & sciences of Old and New worlds alike.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (16511695), shown writing while seated.
The scope and variety of Sor Juana’s writing was unparalleled in the colonial Americas. In addition to original works of philosophy, she wrote plays, poetry, essays, religious treatises, country dances, villancicos [Christmas carols], and learned disputations. Her writings mixed Spanish, Latin, and native Nahuatl, or Latin and Negro dialect. Ranked among the greatest of the Metaphysical poets, Sor Juana wrote some of the finest sonnets in the Spanish language: “when she writes about love and sensuality, Sor Juana soars above her age, and becomes our true contemporary not just because of her gender-bending and transgressive sexuality, but because her love poems are expressions of a complex and ambivalent modern psyche, and because they are so passionate and ferocious that when we read them we feel consumed by the naked intensity she achieves.” (Jaime Manrique, Foreword, Sor Juana’s Love Poems)
View an enlarged 630 x 789 pixel JPG image (159KB)
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (16511695)
By Juan de Miranda.
Another view of Sor Juana and her closet (or cell), with its extensive library. Here, Sor Juana writes while standing.
View an enlarged 720 x 1188 pixel JPG image (289KB)
AS INDICATED IN THE ABOVE PORTRAITS, Sor Juana’s convent cell was expansive and comfortably appointed, with its own kitchen, bath, sleeping quarters, and parlor:
And like the other nuns of San Jerómino, Sor Juana had her own personal servant a mulatto slave-girl, given to her by her mother, whom Juana brought with her to the convent of Santa Paula. (Trueblood 1988, p. 5)
About portraiture in general, Sor Juana displayed the usual double consciousness we associate with a baroque mentality. She and her contemporaries were fascinated by the new theories of vision, optical technologies, and by ongoing scientific inquiry into the means by which thinking in pictures held sway over the human mind.
While Cowley raised the usual hard questions about truth, life, and artificial memory, another poet, Richard Flecknoe, emphasized the interplay between visual and verbal imagination
in the preface to his 1656 The Diarium, or Journall Divided into 12 Jornadas in Burlesque Rhime, or Drolling Verse.
For Sor Juana, also known as the Tenth Muse,
I give the full text of Sor Juana’s poem 27 (as numbered in Trueblood’s A Sor Juana Anthology, p. 95) below.
Procura desmentir los elogios que
a un retrato de la poetisa inscribió
la verdad, que llama pasión
Este, que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores
es cauteloso engaño del sentido;
éste, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y venciendo del tiempo los rigores
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,
es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado:
es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.
She disavows the flattery visible
in a portrait of herself, which
she calls bias
These lying pigments facing you,
with every charm brush can supply
set up false premises of color
to lead astray the unwary eye.
Here, against ghastly tolls of time,
bland flattery has staked a claim,
defying the power of passing years
to wipe out memory and name.
And here, in this hollow artifice
frail blossom hanging on the wind,
vain pleading in a foolish cause,
poor shield against what fate has wrought
all efforts fall and in the end
a body goes to dust, to shade, to nought.
Open a second window with an alternate English translation by Frank Warnke,
• a summary biography of Sor Juana in the Editor’s Introduction for LIB. CAT. NO. JUA1691
• a bilingual transcription of Sor Juana’s “filosofías de cocina” [philosophies of the kitchen], excerpted from Respuesta de la poetisa a la muy ilustre Sor Filotea de la Cruz, in the LIBRARY
• further discussion of Sor Juana’s book-lined closet, compared with the portraiture and famous closet of the duchess of Newcastle, in the GALLERY exhibit, Portraits of Melancholy
• the introductory webessay on Margaret Cavendish in the PLAYERS section, which again pairs Sor Juana and Mad Madge on the subject of writing and philosophizing as an honorable “disease of wit”
• an IN BRIEF topic on baroque-era “Philosophies of the Kitchen”
• a transcription of Abraham Cowley’s poem To the Royal Society (1667) in the LIBRARY and an IN BRIEF topic on Cowley’s he-philosophy
• a GALLERY exhibit on female symbolism in Kircher’s Ars Magna Sciendi, with discussion of Sor Juana’s fashioning as the Tenth Muse
• a GALLERY exhibit on Kircher’s ars combinatoria (in Ars Magna Sciendi), with discussion of Sor Juana’s own epistemological model
This Web page was last modified on: 07/18/2016 10:48 AM.