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Portrait of Juan Bautista de Anza

Questions of Authenticity Dr. Herbert Bolton first published this portrait in his 1921 book, The Spanish Borderlands. He had obtained a photograph of the original painting in 1909 from one of Anza’s descendants, James Ainsa of San Francisco. Over the years, the painting changed hands within the Ainsa family several times before being donated in 1970 to the Palace of Governors of the New Mexico State Museum in Santa Fe. In 1973, J. Ignacio Rubio Mañe, a world-renowned scholar, researcher and author with the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City, expressed doubts that the painting was a genuine representation of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza. The man in the painting is wearing a beard, which was not the fashion in the second half of the eighteenth century, and his hat and coat are seventeenth century French, not what a captain of Northern New Spain would have worn in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Mañe’s doubts were answered by Dr. Richard Ahlborn, an authority from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He said that beards were sometimes worn by men who preferred them in Anza’s time and location. As for the clothes, it was common for painters to keep wardrobes of clothing with which to dress their subject for dramatic effect. To settle the issue, the New Mexico Museum x-rayed the painting and ran a few chemical tests in 1994. Neither technique verified the authenticity of the portrait, but suggested that further pigment analysis may be necessary. The museum invited the advice of conservators and art historians nationwide. The original oil painting of Juan Bautista de Anza hangs in the Palace of Governors of the New Mexico State Museum in Santa Fe.
Anza Portrait (French)

Image Source: From Bolton, Herbert E. The Spanish Borderlands. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1921

Image Credit:




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