This painting is from Cuzco, Peru, and incorporates Spanish influences along with strong native Incan iconography. The Cuzco area was once the center of the Inca Empire, and it continued to have a significant Inca population throughout the Spanish Colonial period. The Cuzco School included many native artists as well as those of Spanish descent.
The Inca considered birds to be sacred, partially for their ability to fly and, consequently, to move closer to the sun god. Bird feathers were incorporated into clothing and headdresses of the Inca nobility and symbolized their exalted status. In Cuzco, paintings often incorporated birds or bird feathers into images of the Virgin and Christ to indicate their sacred and honored position in colonial society. The painting is finished with a gold brocade overlay known in Spanish as broceatado, typical of the Cuzco School.
Madonna and Child with Bird was selected as the 2006 U.S. Postal Service Christmas stamp.
-- Donna Pierce, 2015
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