Judith and the Inca Princess

06 Feb
Judith (1800) Inca Princess

Unknown, “Inca Princess (Gran Ñusta Mama Occollo),” c.1800, oil on canvas mounted on board, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO US


Revisionist history is always so fun.  You can make yourself into a saint or a savior – but no one ever comes out a sinner.  In this painting of the late colonial period of Peru, an ancestor as been posthumously portrayed as Gran Ñusta Mama Occollo – a mythical  deity of motherhood and fertility In legend she has two possible origins:

  • daughter of Inti (God of the Sun) and his sister-wife Mama Killa (Goddess of the Moon, marriage and the menstrual cycle) – OR
  • daughter of Viracocha (God of Everything) and Mama Qucha (Goddess of the Sea)

In either case, she married her brother Manco Cápac and came to earth from a cave (Pacaritambo Paqariq Tampu – 25 km south of Cusco) with a golden staff and the instructions to create a Temple of the Sun in Cusco – which meant uniting tribes to conquer the inhabitants of the Cusco Valley.

With regards to this painting:

The inscription claims that she was the first Christian Inca woman in the Andes and that when a man tried to violate her vow of chastity, she fought and beheaded him. In doing so, she recreated a feat credited to Mama Occllo, the first queen of the Inca dynasty, who conquered Cuzco by decapitating an enemy. Her deed also echoes that of the Old Testament’s Judith, who saved the Jewish nation by beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.

– which is a little confusing since it sounds like Gran Ñusta Mama Occollo most likely invaded and conquered the original inhabitants of Cusco versus defended her city like Judith but … why bother with details when you are revising history based on a myth.

I’m just glad they included the maid.

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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Cacciatore


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