Jose campeche y jordan: José Campeche y Jordán | Smithsonian American Art Museum

José Campeche y Jordán — Encyclopedia of Puerto Rico

“Don Miguel Antonio de Ustáriz” (1790)

Painter and musician

Self-portrait detail of José Campeche

José Campeche y Jordán was the first Puerto Rican painter recognized internationally. He is considered one of the best Latin American portrait artists of his time. His work, anecdotal, historical and religious in nature, showed great attention to detail and physiognomy. Many of his paintings include images that provide glimpses of the Island’s political, social and economic development.

He was born December 23, 1751, in the walled city of San Juan. His parents were Tomás Campeche, born on the island, and María Jordán y Marqués, an immigrant from the Canary Islands. His first studies took place with his father, a painter who did gold plating and had a workshop in the city. During this time, he drew portraits and the figures of saints on the sidewalks in charcoal. Later, he studied philosophy and Latin at the St. Thomas Aquinas Convent in San Juan. Because of his lack of formal instruction in painting, his work at that time showed a linear character. He also studied music as a child and learned to play several musical instruments, such as the flute and the oboe.

In 1775, he met Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799), a prestigious Spanish painter who had come to Puerto Rico after being exiled by King Carlos III. With lessons from Paret, Campeche learned technique and the use of colors. His style evolved, showing more originality and clear tonal influences from French rococo, an artistic style characterized by ornamentation or decoration inspired by nature.

Most of Campeche’s artistic work consists of religious paintings, for which he used as a model the engravings of religious figures he found in books in his personal library. Among these were “The Offering of the Holy Family” (c. 1778), “Our Lady of Grace” (c. 1795), “Our Lady of Bethlehem” (Virgin of the milk) (1806) and a large number of copies of the “Virgin of Bethlehem.

Governor Ramón de Castro by Campeche

Campeche’s best paintings were his portraits, as he put a lot of attention into physiognomy and details. His portraits show characteristics of French rococo, marked in turn by national elements, both historical and geographical. Among his portraits are “Lady on a Horse” (c. 1785), “Doña María de los Dolores Martínez de Carvajal” (c. 1792), “The Daughters of Governor don Ramón de Castro” (1797) and “Bishop don Juan Alejo de Arizmendi de la Torre” (1808).

References to the Puerto Rican landscape were obvious in works such as “Don Miguel Antonio de Ustáriz” (1790), in which the city of San Juan can be seen in the background, and in “Governor don Ramón de Castro” (1800), which shows a panoramic view of the Condado and Puerta de Tierra, sectors neighboring the islet of San Juan.

Campeche died on November 7, 1809, having left a legacy estimated to be around 400 to 500 works.




“Campeche: Mito y realidad”, libro de exposición. San Juan:  Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, 2010.

Dávila, Arturo. “José Campeche: testigo de la ciudad”. San Juan: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 2005.

José Campeche y Jordán. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Retrieved 29/12/2020.

José Campeche. Museo  de Arte de Puerto Rico, Retrieved 29/12/2020.

About José Campeche: American artist (1751 — 1809)

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José Campeche

The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American artist
A.K.A. José Campeche y Jordán, Jose Campeche y Jordan, José de Rivafrecha . ..
Was Painter
From United States of America
Field Arts
Gender male

23 December 1751, San Juan, Puerto Rico


7 November 1809, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(aged 57 years)

The details (from wikipedia)


José Campeche y Jordán (December 23, 1751 – November 7, 1809), is the first known Puerto Rican visual artist and considered by art critics as one of the best rococo artists in the Americas. Campeche y Jordán loved to use colors that referenced the landscape of Puerto Rico, as well as the social and political crème de la crème.

Early life

Campeche was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His parents were Tomás Campeche (1701–1780) and María Jordán y Marqués. His father was a freed slave born in Puerto Rico and his mother was a native of the Canary Islands. His father, a restorer and painter of religious statues, was an early influence on the young Campeche’s interest in the arts. Campeche was trained by Luis Paret y Alcázar, a Spanish court painter banished from Spain.


Campeche distinguished himself with his paintings related to religious themes and of governors and other important personalities. His most famous paintings are: and his best known portraits are of:

  • Juan Alejo de Arizmendi
  • Our Lady of Bethlehem
  • Portrait of Brigadier don Ramón de Castro y Gutiérrez
  • Portrait of Governor don Miguel de Ustariz
  • Saint John the Baptist
  • The Bishop of San Francisco de la Cuerda
  • The Rescue of Don Ramón Power y Giralt in honor of Ramón Power y Giralt
  • The Sacred Family
  • The Virgin of the Rosary
  • The Vision of Saint Anthony
  • Virgen de la Soledad de la Victoria
  • Doña María de los Dolores Gutiérrez del Mazo y Pérez, ca. 1796.
Some of José Campeche’s works

Virgen de la Soledad de la Victoria

(c. 1782-1789)

The Rescue of Don Ramón Power y Giralt

(c. 1790)

«Doña María de los Dolores Gutiérrez del Mazo y Pérez»

(ca. 1796)

The Daughters of Governor Ramón de Castro


San Juan Nepomuceno

(c. 1798)

«Ramón de Castro»


The Puerto Rican society of the time appreciated Campeche’s personal and artistic merits and he is now considered to be amongst the most gifted rococo artists in the Americas. His works of art can be found in museums, churches and private collections in Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Campeche died in the city of San Juan on November 7, 1809.


  • There is a «José Campeche room» in the former Dominican Convent in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where some of his works can be seen. The building is currently being renovated and will be reinaugurated as the National Gallery of Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto Rico has various schools and avenues named after Campeche to honor his memory.
  • The José Campeche High School is located in San Lorenzo.
  • Manuel Gregorio Tavárez composed a funeral march «Redención» in Campeche’s honor.
  • Puerto Rican graphic artist Lorenzo Homar also created a work of art commemorating Campeche.
  • Campeche is buried in the San José Church in Old San Juan.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia
The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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