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José María Velasco (1840–1912), Mexico
Waterspout from Lake Texcoco, Valley of Mexico,
c. 1875
Oil on wood
Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

José María Velasco—who was taught the neoclassical conventions of landscape painting from an Italian instructor at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City—transformed landscape into a means to represent Mexican nationalism. For example this image is of Lake Texcoco, an iconic site in the history of Mexico. The ancient Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán was founded in 1325 when, according to prophecy, an eagle was found devouring a serpent while perched on a prickly pear cactus on an island in the center of this lake. Lake Texcoco was the largest of five lakes—none of which exist today—on the elevated plateau where Mexico City now sits.

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