Luis JuarezMexico 1585-1636
Saint Teresa of Avila and Her Companions (Fragment) 25.0322
The Spanish mystic, St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), who founded a religious order and who was the first woman to be named Doctor of the Church, was a popular subject in seventeenth-century art. Against her father's wishes, Teresa secretly entered the Carmelite convent in Ávila, Spain as a young woman. In 1652, she succeeded in founding the Convent of St. Joseph in Ávila, the first community of reformed, or Discalced Carmelite nuns (referring to their practice of going barefoot or wearing sandals.) This painting is consistent with the Counter Reformation style in Mexico, in which ecstatic holy figures were portrayed in an intimate, direct way. Holding a bishop's staff in one hand and with her other hand raised as if witnessing a miracle, she gazes lovingly at the prominent flowering tree. The tilt of her head and her pleasant expression make her appear approachable. The meaning of the tree, although assumed to be an allegory for some aspect of her life, or a passage from her writings, has yet to be determined. St. Teresa was an influential author. Among her writings are a spiritual autobiography, The Way to Perfection, advice to nuns, The Interior Castle, a description of the contemplative life, and The Foundations, an account of the origins of the Discalced Carmelites.
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