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Sunday Morning, Maravatío / Thomas Moran


When Thomas Moran visited Mexico in 1883, he was captivated by the municipality of Maravatío,1 a refreshing oasis of green that lies in an arid plain between the capital of Mexico City and the silver mines of San Luis Potosí. Depicted in this watercolor sketch is the parish church of San Juan Bautista, its magnificent campanario (bell tower) recognizable for miles around. San Juan Bautista was built during the eighteenth century, the great era of parish church construction in Mexico, when lavish architectural embellishments were common, most notably on the entryway.2

The unadorned white wall of the facade provides a charmingly simple background for the elaborate portal that Moran rendered in detail. Our eye, however, is first attracted to the brightly clad worshipers preparing to enter the church and, as we join them, we get a glimpse of the candlelit interior. We then explore the ornate doorjamb of attached columns or pilasters that cast shadows to create a beguiling play of light around the entrance. As our eyes move upward, we note the curling lines that decorate the entablature; just above, on the second story, fluted pilasters encase a blue octagon that frames a window. The top story of the entry also includes a window, above which is a small cross. When Moran portrayed San Juan Bautista in a later oil painting, he elevated the status of this parish church, titling it Cathedral of Maravatío (01.1104)—perhaps because of the rather extravagant portal—although it was not a bishop’s church.3

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021

1 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 236.
2 Baird, The Churches of Mexico, 29, 40–41. The peak of parish church construction in Mexico took place between 1730 and 1780.
3 The dome of San Juan Bautista is not depicted in the watercolor, only in the oil painting, which presents the church from the side rather than the front. The combination of a large dome with a bell tower was common in eighteenth-century parish churches, which could be quite large. Cathedrals in Mexico mostly date to the seventeenth century. Hallmarks of cathedral architecture in the country at that time include a facade framed by shorter, stouter bell towers and a compact dome, with the facade decorated with sculptural niches, windows, and tracery surrounding an elaborate portal. Baird, The Churches of Mexico, 50–51.

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Sunday Morning, Maravatío
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Hudson River School
watercolor and graphite with white gouache on paper
Portrait; single-sided 0.259- 0.276 mm Machine-made, wove, slightly texture surface ,mixed fiber, light blue in color. The drawing is located on the wire side of the support. Same paper as 0246.822
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0246.812; 17041
Not On View

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