Virgen de la Leche (Nursing Virgin and Child)

Unidentified Spanish Colonial (Cuenca, Ecuador) artist, Ecuadorian, 18th century


18th century

Oil on canvas

Overall: 27 × 20 in. (68.6 × 50.8 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Marta Phillips in memory of David F. Phillips, Class of 1951



Place Made: Cuenca, Ecuador, South America



Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


This nurturing depiction of the Madonna and Child shows Mary offering her breast to her son. Her ornate, gold trimmed clothing and large and bright halo represent her holiness. The Christ Child, wrapped in cloth related to Indigenous Peruvian weaving, points to the colonial origins of this painting. The introduction of Christianity and the simultaneous destruction of Indigenous culture by the Spanish and other invaders in South America influenced art of the period. This devotional painting includes a mix of overt European Christian imagery with more subtle nods to the Indigenous American origins of the painter and this work’s original audience.

Written by Jess Karson, ’23

From the 2023 exhibition Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, curated by students of ARTH 20.04, "Faith and Empire: Art in the Early Modern World" taught by Elizabeth Rice Mattison, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Academic Programming

Course History

REL 51, Virgin of Guadalupe, Elizabeth Perez, Winter 2013

REL 7, Dark Goddesses and Black Madonnas, Elizabeth Perez, Winter 2013

ANTH 64, The Evolution of Pregnancy, Zaneta Thayer, Spring 2019

GOVT 86.43/MES 12.14, Intellectual History of Racism, Michelle Clarke and Jonathan Smolin, Spring 2022

Art History 20.04, Faith and Empire, Beth Mattison, Spring 2023

Art History 20.04, Faith and Empire, Beth Mattison, Spring 2023

History 10.02, Archival Research, M. Cecillia Gaposchkin, Summer 2023

Art History 28.01, The Global Renaissance, Elizabeth Kassler-Taub, Spring 2024

Spanish 30.01, Introduction to Hispanic Studies I, Noelia Cirnigliaro, Spring 2024

Exhibition History

Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, Class of 1967 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, August 12-December 23, 2023.


Collected by David Frederic Phillips (1929-1988), in Quito, Ecuador, during his time in the Foreign Service, 1960's-1970's; to his wife Marta Schlappi de Phillips (1929-2016), in 1988; given to present collection, 1998.

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