Honor for a native son

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

Juan Patricio Morlette Ruiz was born in the Villa of San Miguel el Grande in 1713. Cornelio López Espinosa, a former city chronicler, wrote that Morlette was a very successful artist in his day.

López Espinosa stated in a document that Morlette painted portraits of the viceroys of New Spain, including Agustín de Ahumada y Villalón, the Marquis of the Amarillas, Francisco Cajigal de la Vega and Francisco de la Croix. These paintings are part of a collection in the Museum of Anthropology and History at Chapultepec in Mexico City. “His great talent as a portrait painter can be seen in those paintings,” said López.

The artist also loved painting Our Lady of Guadalupe, and according to the city historian one of those paintings is owned by one of the families in San Miguel most known for keeping the city’s traditions alive.

Other paintings give evidence that he was working for the Jesuits, such as the one of St. Luis of Gonzaga, which is part of the Pinacoteca Nacional (viceregal art gallery). The Pinacoteca also holds a painting by Morlette entitled “Allegory of the Virgin as Protector of the Faith.” Morlette developed a style that paved the way for the transition to neoclassicism in Mexico.

Although his family history is unknown, Morlette left the Villa of San Miguel in 1729 and went to Mexico City. He was student of the painter José de Ibarra, known as an adherent of the baroque style in 18th-century New Spain. Morlette died in 1772.

On August 30, some traditionalists in San Miguel held a mass to honor the artist. In the future they plan to ask the city council to recognize the artist as a son of San Miguel and build a fountain in his honor or have a street named after the artist.


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