Obsequies in Mexico for Maria Amalia, Queen consort of Spain – With 28 engraved emblems and the rare folding plate of the Queen consort's Catafalque

CEREMONIES. EMBLEMS. Rodríguez del Toro, José; Malo de Villavicencio, Felix Venancio; Velez de Ulibarri-Olasso, José Manuel; Becerra y Moreno, José Javier

Llanto de la fama. Reales exequias de la serenissima Señora Da. Maria Amalia de Saxonia, reyna de las Españas. celebradas en la Santa Iglesia Cathedral de la imperial corte mexicana, los dias 17. y 18. de julio de 1761. Dispuestas por los Sres. comissarios Lic. D. Joseph Rodriguez del Toro, caballero del Orden de Calatrava, y Lic. D. Felix Venancio Malo, del Consejo de Su Magestad, y sus oydores en esta Real Audiencia.

Mexico En la emprenta Nueva Antuerpiana de Christoval y Philipe de Zuñiga y Ontiveros, 1761


Quarto: 19.8 x 14.5 cm. [72] p., 28 plates (* see note at the foot of this description); [2], 22 p., [2], 23-60 p. Large folding plate, plus 28 full-page engraved emblems in the text. Collation: A-Q4; A-C4; D-H4. (In the first part, lvs. Q1 and N1 misbound as in the JCB copy. In the first part leaf C2 is signed Cc2, leaf E4 is signed F, Sig. F not signed, leaf Q2 signed Q3.) Internet Archive collates signatures E and F in the first part as E4 (-E4), F6 (-F6) taking E4 (signed "F" as F1.) Complete.


Bound in contemporary speckled calf with minimal wear, the spine richly tooled in gold; A very fine, crisp copy with very minor faults: plate 3 shaved at head just touching text; plate 4 shaved at head with loss of 1-line motto; 2 mended tears to the folding plate of Maria Amalia's catafalque. With the bookplates of the 19thc. Mexican philologist and historian Joaquín García Icazbaceta (1824-1894), and "M. Porrua" on front pastedown. An attractive copy of a very rare book. I have located three copies north of Mexico: JCB (defective: lacking folding engraving and the last 60 pages), Austin, and Toronto Public.

A marvelous, illustrated account of the memorial services held in Mexico City for Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724-1760), Queen consort of Naples and Sicily (1738-1759) and subsequently Queen consort of Spain until her death in 1760.

Maria Amalia was the daughter of Augustus III of Poland, Elector of Saxony, and Maria Josepha of Austria. In 1738 Maria Amalia married Charles, King of Naples of Sicily, the future King Charles III of Spain. As Queen consort of Naples and Sicily, Maria Amalia oversaw the construction of the palaces at Caserta, Portici, and Capodimonte, and the San Carlo Theater in Naples. Maria Amalia left Naples for Madrid in 1759 when Charles was made King of Spain. She died less than a year later as a result of tuberculosis and constant smoking. She is entombed in El Escorial. 

Memorial ceremonies for Maria Amalia were held in Naples and Sicily and throughout the Spanish Empire, including the Philippines, Mexico, and Guatemala. The obsequies held in these far-flung territories reflected regional adaptations and interpretations of the traditional, European memorial services.

The services held in the New World exhibited a number of novel developments, particularly with respect to the monuments created for the occasion. After the middle 18thc., the traditional architectonic form of sepulchral monuments in Mexico began to change drastically, as they had in Guatemala, but with very different results. The funerary monument for Maria Amalia of Savoy shows a decidedly new typology: a monumental, pyramidal structure flanked by four huge columnar candelabra. This pyramidal form, entirely new to the New World, originated in Bernini's design for the catafalque of Pope Alexander VII in 1667 (See Beltrán et al., La Fiesta Barroca, p. 67). 

This copy includes the large, folding engraved plate of Maria Amalia's imposing catafalque (the work of the painter Miguel Cabrera) as well as 28 emblems that were used to decorate the catafalque, here engraved by Eligio Morales.

The first twelve emblems illustrate various aspects of Maria Amalia's character and depict episodes from her life (some of these are fantastic in nature: one of them shows her arriving on the Spanish coast, her vessel surrounded by mermaids, while another shows her in conversation with a skeleton, come to announce her impending death). Emblems thirteen through twenty-eight are purely allegorical, with angels plucking their own feathers, skeletons tearing branches from trees (or playing trombones), a winged tongue (!) flying above a city, etc. All are accompanied with mottoes by classical or Renaissance Latin poets, and are followed by lyrics or prose passages explaining their meaning. (See Mínguez, La imagen de la mujer Americana en el arte y en la emblematica novohispana: los espejos regios, p.32)

This copy includes two additional works not found in all copies, each with a separate title page: José JavierBecerra y Moreno's "Regia prudentiae funebre encomium", and José Manuel Velez de Ulibarri-Olasso's"Exemplar Humilidad".

* Note: The way that the pagination of the first part of this book is given in OCLC records and elsewhere, namely "[72] pages and 28 plates", is, to my mind, inaccurate or at best ambiguous but I have followed it above. The first part consists of 64 printed leaves, 28 of which, although integral to the collation, are printed on one side only with an engraved emblem and letterpress ornaments. To my mind, then, the first part of this book has [128] pages (2 p. per each of the 64 lvs.), the versos of the leaves with the illustrations being blank pages not "plates".

Medina, Imprenta en México (1539-1821), 4725; Palau y Dulcet, Manual del librero hispano-americano (2. ed.), 275069 and 358157; León, Bibliografía Mexicana de el Siglo XVIII, 836, 837, and 838. Francisco de Solano, Fiestas en la ciudad de Mexico, p. 301 Beltrán et al., La fiesta barroca. Los virreinatos americanos (1560-1808), p. 67-9