Featured Acquisition: Attributed to Diego Quispé Tito
Attributed to Diego Quispé Tito(1611-1681)

Virgin of the Mystic Rose, c. 1675

Oil on canvas  
63 x 45 inches
69 x 51 inches framed

Private Collection, Carmel, CA
Diego Quispé Tito (1611–1681) was a Quechua painter who is considered the founder of the Cuzco School. His work is done in the style of Spanish Mannerism and Flemish painting. He is believed to have learned these styles from Italian Jesuit Bernardo Bitti, who was active at the time in Cuzco. In addition, he is believed to have known Luis de Riaño in his youth, and may have derived some elements of his style from the older artist; de Riaño, a painter from Lima, had trained in the workshop of Angelino Medoro, and so would have provided another source of Italian influence.

Quispé Tito also was influenced in his work by engravings from Flanders; indeed, his best-known work, the 1681 Signs of the Zodiac in Cuzco Cathedral, is a series of copies of Flemish engravings in which each zodiac sign is tied to a parable from the life of Christ. These engravings were designed for distribution in Peru, where worship of the sun, moon, and stars was still practiced in some quarters; they were designed to encourage worship of Christ and His miracles in place of the zodiac. A further series, depicting scenes from the life of John the Baptist and dating to 1663, was also produced on Flemish models.

Quispe Tito also incorporated several personal elements into his work; most notable was his use of gilding and his depiction of spacious landscapes filled with birds and angels.  

Diego Quispé Tito died in Cuzco in 1681.

The rose has been a symbol of mystery since ancient times. The veneration of the Mystical Rose began in the first centuries of Christianity. In the catacombs of St. Callistus (3rd century), Christians drew roses as a sign of paradise. Cyprian of Carthage writes that it is a sign of martyrdom.

The veneration of Mary as the Mystic Rose dates back at least to the 5th century. Edulia Caelio was the first to call Mary “rose among thorns.” Four centuries later the monk Teophanes Graptos uses the same simile referring to the purity of Mary and the fragrance of her grace. In the Litany of Loreto (1587), she was given the title Mary, Mystical Rose.

In this work the Virgin appears with lilies and roses on each side, wearing a crown of roses. The verdant landscape at the bottom of the painting is typical of works from the Cuzco School.