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Savage breast/salvaged breast: Allegory, colonization, and wet-nursing in Peru, 1532–1825

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Chapter Summary

In a remarkable late eighteenth-century Peruvian painting, America is allegorized as a richly dressed, voluptuous female suckling two youths. This chapter considers the exposed breast of the more typical savage allegorical America, and how both its visibility and availability represented the conquest of American land and people. Such considerations enable one to read the singular breastfeeding America of the painting, couched in allegory, for Peruvian independence from Spain. Further, the chapter shows how this America figure derives from the Virgo Lactans, the traditional European image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and how that derivation influences the reading of the allegory. Finally, the chapter reflects on the predicament of real Indian women who were employed as wet nurses for Spanish infants in colonial Peru.

Keywords: colonial Peru; Peruvian painting; Savage breast; wet nursing



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