The practice of praying with a rosary began in twelfth century Europe, when it was said that the Virgin Mary herself had given the first rosary beads to Saint Dominic of Guzmán with instructions to offer prayers to her. In this painting, Saint Dominic is identified not only by this event and by the black and white habit of the order he founded, but by the presence of the dog below. According to the Golden Legend, Dominic’s mother, while pregnant with him, had a dream that she would give birth to a dog with a torch in its mouth that would “burn the world.” This dream forecasted Dominic’s founding of an order, the Dominicans, that would preach throughout the world.
In a number of paintings, both European and Spanish Colonial, Dominic is accompanied by Saint Catherine of Siena, who is identified by the stigmata on her hands received during one of her visionary experiences of God. The object below her in the painting Our Lady of the Rosary with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena most likely represents a book referencing her writings, including The Dialogue of Divine Providence and many letters and prayers.
This small painting on copper would have been used for private devotions, and can be stylistically dated to the early seventeenth century, reflecting a new use of a plate originally intended for printing. Our Lady of the Rosary with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena was painted on an unused plate. The fine and quite small facial features point to the influence of the Mannerist style on artists in the early years of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The painting was originally without the gold embellishment that was added in the eighteenth century, reflecting a change in taste as well as a wish to enhance the value of the work.