Our Lady of Mercy, called “The Pilgrim of Quito”


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 626

This work belongs to the genre of "pilgrim images," cult images or likenesses of them that were taken on alms-gathering missions. In a scene reminiscent of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, a miracle-working image of the Virgin and Child venerated by the Mercedarians of Quito is transported on a mule led by a white-robed friar. A vignette in the background narrates a miracle that occurred at sea, between Portobello and Cartagena, when Dutch pirates seized and profaned the image of the Virgin whereupon the aggrieved image of the Christ Child threw itself into the sea. Both Virgin and Child were miraculously saved and restored to the care of the Mercedarians in Quito. Such stories emerged, or were invented, in connection with the actual practice of taking the image on missions to gather alms for the construction of a new church. During a period of nearly thirty years, from 1706 until 1735, the Quito Virgin was taken throughout Spanish America, to cities and towns as far north as Mexico and and as far south as Chile. In 1735 the image was taken via Cuba to the Spanish port of Cádiz, having been claimed by the Mercedarians of that city. This painting, by a Cuzco artist, is likely to have been commissioned in connection with the establishment of new sites of devotion to the Quito Virgin in Peru following the Mercedarian missions.

Our Lady of Mercy, called “The Pilgrim of Quito”, Unknown Cuzco artist, Peru, 18th Century, Oil and gold on canvas, Peru (Cuzco)

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