Lot 374
  • 374


600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • José Clemente Orozco
  • La Conquista
  • Signed J.C. Orozco (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 35 7/8 by 27 5/8 in.
  • 91 by 70 cm
  • Painted circa 1942.


Galerías Iturbide, Mexico City
Acquired from the above in 1969 


Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes; Moscow, Pushkin Museum; St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum; East Berlin, Nationalgalerie; Halle, Kunstmuseum Moritzburg; Krakow, Muzeum Narodowe; Vienna, Museum moderner Kunst, Palais Liechtenstein; Oxford, Museum of Modern Art; West Berlin, Orangerie Schloss Charlottenburg & Siena, Palazzo Publico, Homenaje a José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), 1979-81, no. 288, illustrated in color in the catalogue (titled Hernán Cortés) 
Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum; Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art & Fukuoka, Fukuoka City Art MuseumRenacimiento en el Arte Mexicano: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, 1989, n.n.
Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey; Guadalajara, Instituto Cultural Cabañas & Mexico City, Antiguo Colegio de San Idelfonso, Jalisco: Genia  y maestría, 1994-95, no. 131, illustrated in color in the catalogue 
Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Ottowa, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada,  Mexican Modern Art, 1900-1950, 1999-2000, n.n.
Guadalajara, Instituto Cultural Cabañas, 2010; Mexico City, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, José Clemente Orozco: Pintura y verdad, 2010-11, no. 258, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

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.In the period between 1940 and 1945, although he had several major mural commissions, José Clemente Orozco turned increasingly to drawing and easel painting, revisiting themes and iconographic elements from prior mural cycles, including those at Pomona College (1930), Dartmouth University (1932-34) and the Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara (1938-39). La Conquista reworks on canvas the image of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés on a vaulted panel in the north nave of the deconsecrated church of the former hospice in Guadalajara. Like the fresco painting that is its source, La Conquista focuses on the violence and devastation of the Spanish conquest, specifically the brutal subjugation of indigenous populations and the annihilation of the indigenous world. Orozco aligns the conquest with modern warfare, turning Cortes into a machine, a steel armored mechanical warrior. Even the archangel who tumbles from the sky to guide and spur the Conquistador into action becomes a mechanized weapon of death. As David Elliot has written in relation to the original mural, this image expresses a “ruthless imposition of an evangelical…faith” (David Elliot, ¡Orozco! 1883-1949, Oxford, 1980, p. 80).

Orozco heightens the dramatic tension, abject violence of the scene, and the idea of the clash of two cultures through expressive, jagged brushstrokes that assault the canvas. The artist also strategically uses a contrasting color palette to invoke duality: steely cold greys for the Spanish conquest and warm reds and browns for the ravaged bodies of the indigenous figures. Sharp diagonals throughout the composition add to the chaos of the scene and reinforce the historical violence Orozco expresses.

Throughout his work, Orozco often disavowed narrative minutiae in favor of historical exegesis. The broader vision of history that Orozco expressed in his murals, all marked by cyclical interactions of heroes, anti-heroes and the masses is summarized here in the brutal confrontation between the colonizers and the indigenous.  

Anna Indych-López
2018-2019 Stuart Z. Katz Professor of the Humanities and the Arts
The City College of New York, CUNY
Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Art
Ph.D. Program in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY