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Portraits of a Contested Mystic: Representing Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda in Print

  • Author(s): Saylor, Miranda
  • Advisor(s): Villaseñor Black, Charlene
  • et al.

Born in 1602 and named abbess of her convent at just 24 years, Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda's high-profile was the subject of extreme controversy. Known as King Philip IV's spiritual adviser, as a prolific author, and as mystic abbess who experienced visions of miraculously bilocating to Mexico's northern frontier, the seventeenth-century nun's renown is remarkable considering she never physically left the confines of her small town of Ágreda, Spain. During her lifetime, Sor María was depicted in a few paintings, but her imagery proliferated after her death as devotional images and as frontispieces to her publications. This thesis investigates five printed portraits of Sor María de Ágreda that were produced in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I argue that the printed images of this controversial abbess occupy a negotiated space between sacred art, which is designed to incite devotion, and secular portraiture, which advocates for her identity as a learned female scholar and writer.

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