Caribbean - Spanish Colonial
Portrait of a Mother and her Son
Att. to Jean Baptiste Vermay de Beaumé
(Tournon, France 1786 - 1833 La Habana)
Portrait of a Mother with her Son
Cuba, c. 1815
Oil on canvas
52 1/3 x 44 inches (133 x 112 cm); framed size, 57 x 49 inches
Though he was born in France, Vermay became a leader in Cuban Colonial art.
His early paintings were highly influenced by Jacques-Louis David, and he won several medals at the Salons in Paris, up until 1815, when his life changed radically as a result of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. It was the end of his career in France. Vermay went to Cuba.
It seems that the painter Francisco de Goya was responsible for Vermay’s introduction to the Bishop of Havana, Juan José Díaz Espada y Landa. The painter was commissioned to make works for several churches that are now housed in the Palace of the Captains General. He was also named official painter to the King of Spain in Cuba. The whereabouts of portraits that he painted of aristocracy in Cuba is mostly unknown. Familia Manrique de Lara is said to be one of those portraits. Our portrait is influenced by J-L David’s type of neoclassicism, but with the more rustic quality adopted by Vermay in Cuba.
Besides a painter, Vermay was an architect, decorator, and scenographer. He founded the first Academy of Fine Arts in Havana (Escuela de Bellas Artes San Alejandro) in 1818.
He planned and oversaw construction of El Diorama, a theatre for the dramatic arts, and founded Havana’s botanical garden.
In front of his paintings in the Templete (Havana), a white marble bust of the painter stands on a pedestal, and next to it is a marble urn where the remains of Vermay and his wife are interred.
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