Julio Castellanos: Three Nudes (The Aunts)

Three Nudes (The Aunts);  Julio Castellanos, 1905-1947; Mexican; oil on canvas; 1930.  Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A representation of the long socialization of a child and his grounding in all things family love.

This painting seems to be from the little boy’s viewpoint.


He is just a little boy.  His aunts are wide and large and solid.  The legs of the table and chairs are sturdy and solid.  The cup from which he drinks looks very big:  big in his hands and in his eyes.  The jug is tall and sturdy; his aunt’s hand is firm on its handle.  Everything in this painting is big, solid and sturdy except for him.

He is already so confident and safe among his enveloping aunts that, his left foot slightly off the ground in anticipatory tension, leaning his face forward a little, he is balancing the big cup with his right hand whose arm his aunt cups firmly with her right hand.


His left hand touches the fingers of his aunt’s left hand.  He is reassuring himself in his big gambit to drink by himself.  But he is also holding her left fingers away from the cup.


A tableau of one of the repeated and repeated acts of imitation, attention, negotiation and authority, submission, defiance, reward, rebuke and vast comfort which make up the socialization of a loved child.