Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 475
The poem that Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz addresses to her portrait is often referred to in Spanish by one of its key phrases, “engaño colorido,” which may be translated as “painted lie.” The noun “engaño” (related to the verb “engañar”) may also mean “trick,” “swindle,” “cheat,” “fake,” “deception,” or “illusion.” Those meanings figure into her reaction to the falsity of the portrait itself as well as to the underlying concepts that she believes it conveys.
This one you see is painted foolishness
making everything a show of art,
splashes of false syllogisms, colors
that fool the senses craftily . . .
The poet suggests that the viewer should not trust their eyes. Art is a “show,” which can mean an exhibition or a pretense. Instead, they should consider the falsity of the image; it uses “colors that fool the senses” and portrays frivolity and “foolishness.” But she refers to a deeper sense of deception as well as the lighter frivolity in using “craftily” for the way the painting fools the viewer. The falsity takes the form of “syllogisms” (misleading or erroneous logical conclusions).
This one, in whom flattery pretends
to push aside the ravages of years
and conquer time's rigors
and triumph over old age and oblivion . . .
The portrait, in making the sitter look younger than her years, engages in “flattery,” which is another aspect of the falsity to which she just referred. That flattery only “pretends” to set aside the harsh effects or “ravages of years.” She uses the related militaristic metaphors of “conquer” and “triumph” to convey the aggression she sees in this falsity. The harshness of time is conveyed in strong terms; along with “ravages,” she uses “rigors” for time’s effects. In contrast to the false hope of youth and remembrance the portrait offers, she reminds the viewer...
(The entire section contains 475 words.)
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