"El Dia que Me Quieras: Self-Portrait as a Crowned Nun"

One of my favorite genres of art is that of the portraits of crowned nuns, las monjas coronadas, painted in the 18th-19th centuries in Viceregal Mexico. Commemorations of a young lady’s formal induction into an order of nuns, the subject is generally dressed in her new habit, topped with an elaborate floral and gilded crown, bears a large decorated candle, and sports other accoutrements of religious and symbolic significance.

From the moment I first saw them I wanted to draw a self-portrait in the style; and, in 1993, to commemorate my wife’s and my sixteenth anniversary, I did.

I was also listening to a lot of Latin American boleros at the time, so I titled the piece, in the text panel at the bottom, after a particularly lovely one – “El Día que Me Quieras” (The Day that You Love Me), a great Carlos Gardel composition; the song’s lyrics inspire a number of the drawing’s elements, as well.

The banner unfurling from my left hand and wrapped around the candle bears the lyric “Desde el azul del cielo / las estrellas celosas nos miraran pasar” (From the blue of the sky / the jealous stars will watch us pass by). The small religious card of the Sacred Heart bears the lyric “Ella aquieta mi herida” (She quiets my wound). And so on.

The crown shares elements from the lyrical Indigenous-Baroque Templo de Santa María Tonantzintla, in Cholula, Puebla; the ceramic árbol de la vida (tree of life) artesanias of Metepec, Edo. De México; the bodegones (still-life paintings) of 19th century Mexican artist Agustín Arrieta; and the traditional Mexican Bingo-like game of Lotería.

"El Dia que Me Quieras: Self-Portrait as a Crowned Nun," 1993

Color pencil on rag paper, 70"h x 40"w; by J Michael Walker

Click on the above image to see it magnified

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