Re-Envisioning Palafox: The Pictorial Resurgence of the Bishop of Pueblaa




Franklin, Alyssa

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The image and collective memory of seventeenth-century bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza has shaped the identity of Poblanos for the past four centuries. Thousands of Palafox’s portraits were created both during his lifetime and in the century after his death. Despite the fact that Palafox’s image is everywhere, discussion of a particular iconographic resurgence that took place a century after his death—primarily through allegorical portraits—has fallen short. The extant scholarly narrative uses these portraits as evidence for a protracted saint-making program. In this thesis, I argue instead that the alegorías reflect Palafox’s changing identity in the eighteenth century and market him as an intellectual rather than a saint.

European prints portraying Palafox as an intellectual are the compositional source for the alegorías. Carlos III’s promotion of Palafox as an enlightened individual combined with a lack of ecclesiastical iconography indicates Palafox’s eighteenth-century resurgence is not part of a saint-making program. Instead, it was catalyzed by the secular power of a Bourbon monarch, Carlos III, who transformed Palafox’s image to fit his propagandistic regime. These royally-endorsed European prints inspire the alegorías compositions of New Spain, and shift Palafox’s identity from potential saint to that of an enlightened individual.

To support my argument, I examine the alegorías and identify the significant role that the king of Spain played in the iconographic and literary resurgence of this formerly-disgraced bishop. This thesis also examines the symbolism embedded in these portraits and seeks to illuminate the way that allegorical portraits fulfilled unique and shifting goals for those who created the compositions. Finally, I seek to examine the effect that Palafox’s changing identity has had on Poblano identity.


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Art and Art History