Juan Soriano (1920 - 2006)

Untitled (1953)

Pencil on paper
height: 24cm
width: 31cm

Donated by Emma Reyes 1994


While Juan Soriano's work often contains specifically Mexican sources, the artist has always aimed to reflect the universal in his imagery. In 1953, the year in which this untitled drawing was executed, Soriano was living in Rome and deeply interested in the early cultures of Greece, most especially in the fertility goddesses of Crete. Soriano's image depicts a mythic scene in which a female with wide hips stands watch over a sleeping male, and the emphasised nudity of both create a strong tone of desire. The figures are surrounded by birds, a fish and a calla lily, and the two volcanoes which loom behind them suggest that this is an inversion of the Nahuatl myth in which two ill-fated lovers were transformed into volcanoes: Popocatepetl (Smoking Warrior) is said to keep eternal vigil over Ixtaccihuatl (Sleeping Woman). However, the drawing also reflects an ancient Greek inspiration. The calla lily was an attribute of the Minoan goddess Britomartis, later associated with Artemis. According to myth, Artemis fell in love and made nightly visits to the beautiful youth Endymion, doomed by Zeus to an eternal sleep. Soriano would later recall that his time in Rome and visits to Greece put him in touch with an art that seemed closely related to that of the prehispanic world, and his drawing reflects both cultures as synthesised through the artist's sensibility.

Terri Geis, 2008

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