Details & Cataloguing

Latin America: Modern Art Evening Sale

New York

José María Velasco (1840-1912)

This lot is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Maria Elena Piolle and dated December 2015 

This painting is part of the National Heritage of Mexico and cannot be permanently exported from the country. Accordingly, it is offered for sale in New York from the catalogue and will not be available in New York for inspection or delivery. The painting will be released to the purchaser in Mexico in compliance with all local requirements. Prospective buyers may contact Sotheby’s representatives in Mexico City and Monterrey for an appointment to view the work.


Galerías La Granja, Mexico City
Acquired from the above in 1962 by Salinas y Rocha, Mexico City
Gifted by the above to a Private Collector, Mexico City
Thence by descent to the present owners


Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, El Mito de dos Volcanes: Popocatépetl Iztaccíhuatl, February 23-June 19, 2005, p. 149, no. 13

Catalogue Note

José María Velasco (1840–1912) painted Valley of Mexico from Tepeyac between 1901 and 1905. This realist landscape represents the great valley of Mexico seen from the mountains of the north, specifically from the hill of Tepeyac.

In the foreground of the composition, Velasco painted rhyolitic tuff formations in which he emphasized the effects of weather on fractured rocks and formations of caliche. A little further back, he depicted oaks, several houses, and a chapel, which together form a combination of focal points that expand the picture plane. Also included is a group of three indigenous inhabitants, two women and a man, who walk through a sidewalk which painted detail describes the effects of nature on rainwater drainage. On the left side of the composition we perceive two cows, one black and the other on brown, whose diminutive size amplifies the picture’s depth.

The middle ground presents the valley: its ancient beaches, the dried up lake and the beautiful city of Mexico, the towers and domes of its numerous churches give way to the importance of the cathedral. Both the Sierra Nevada and the mountains to the south are depicted with exceptional mastery in the horizon; particularly the snow covered volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The sky combines subtle pale blue colors without a trace of clouds. Valley of Mexico from Tepeyac illustrates the cool light of sunset in the winter season. The shadows produced by the group of rocks located in the foreground contrast with the deep color and luminosity of the city and especially the mountains. The intensity of the snowed volcanoes is so bright that it radiates a wonderful glow. This is a work that shows great skill in the handling of brushstroke and in the application of glazes.

José María Velasco executed Valley of Mexico from Tepeyac during the last decade of his life. The picture displays Velasco’s artistic maturity in the virtuous handling of color, brushstroke, perspective, depth, glazing and light. Luminosity and monumentality are characteristic qualities of Velasco’s painting.  Manuel G. Revilla, close friend of the artist wrote: "Velasco is the painter of great horizons. His mastery lays in the grandeur of the landscape; this is why it pleases him to paint the valleys and volcanoes, the distant distances. His greatest success is the configuration of planes that delve into the canvas ...he pursues the broad, the great, the majestic, the imposing, leaving on his canvases the seal of his manly energy. "

Ma. Elena Altamirano Piolle

March 2017

Latin America: Modern Art Evening Sale

New York