Was this the entire picture the right side seems cut off?
That is the entire picture. It's in an visual illusion used by artists to give the impression that the room continues beyond the picture.
Do you see the arches in the background? They give the impression of a long pathway to the garden.
Can you tell me about this picture?
Sure! This portrait of Doña Mariana Belsunse y Salasar demonstrates the taste for European styles and aesthetics in the wealthy Spanish colony of Peru. Many of the motifs are borrowed from European portraiture as well as details specific to eighteenth-century Lima. The ankle length gown called a tobajilla, for example, was popular in Spain and Spanish colonies. Several of the props on the table also allude to her great wealth.
Interestingly, the entryway which showcases a highly "manicured landscape" actually shows a real place and actual landmarks of the time. It leads to the grand archway of the Paseo de Aguas near to the Plaza de Acho, a famous Lima bullring that was founded by Doña Mariana and her husband.
That skirt is HUGE! How did women get through doors in dresses like this?
Practicality wasn't the primary concern for Doña Mariana Belsunse y Salasar and her peers. Fancy, and at times impractical, clothing can certainly be the mark of wealth in portrait painting. This type of dress was worn by wealthy women of high social status in late eighteenth century Peru. Both the dress and the jewels she is wearing were intended to impress her importance and wealth upon the viewer. I think it's a strategy that's still working today.
Was this painting done during a colonial era? It looks more European than indigenous Peruvian.
Yes, it was. Doña Mariana Belsunse y Salasar, the subject of this portrait, was married to the Spanish mayor of Lima in the 1780's, during the colonial period. Her social circle included the Viceroy, who was one of the highest Spanish colonial officers in the Americas at the time. Her European allegiances were something she wanted to communicate with this painting.
Would you happen to know what the Latin in the bottom right corner translates to, or if there was ever a full translation?
Here is the full inscription translated from Spanish: "The Lady Mariana Belsunse y Salasar. Born in Lima legitimate wife of Coronol Agustín de Landaburrú y Rivera"
I wanted to ask how many layers this type of dress was made up of.
The style of dress is called a tobajilla, and is a variation on a style common in the 1780s that was popular in Spanish colonies at the time. As for the layers, it's a bit complicated:
For a dress of this style, the woman would start out with a structured slip style dress or skirt and corset that created the torso shape you see. These are the undergarments.
A layer of padding and another skirt were put on top, and then the decorated layers would be layered on top: including a stomach bib (the stiff part in the front with bows), a petticoat (the embroidered skirt part), and a jacket style garment that included the sleeves and back of the shirt portion.
So there would be many, many layers, including at least three skirts and three or four layers of "shirt" and corsetry, plus padding! I recommend looking up videos of 1780s and 1790s dressing. It required many many pieces that fit together almost like a puzzle and lots of assistance for fine ladies like Doña Mariana to get dressed!
Tell me more.
Doña Mariana Belsunse y Salasar has quite the dress on, doesn't she? The portrait is meant to demonstrate her taste for European styles and show off her wealth. Doña Mariana was a wealthy woman living in Lima, Peru, in the eighteenth century, then a Spanish colony.
The window behind her actually shows us a real place! The Paseo de Aguas which you see outside the window lead to the Plaza de Acho, the Lima bullring that became a famous landmark of the time after Doña Mariana and her husband had founded it.