Speaking/seeing saints: Norah Borges and Silvina Ocampo collaborate

Fiona J. Mackintosh, Roberta Quance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As close friends, the Argentinian visual artist Norah Borges (1901–1998) and the writer Silvina Ocampo (1903–1993) often collaborated. While the collaboration usually consisted of illustrations Norah provided for Silvina's cuentos, there is one interesting exception to this: the volume Breve santoral (Buenos Aires: Gaglianone, 1984). This short work brings together on an equal footing Norah's images and Silvina's texts (a series if twelve poems on the lives and legends if certain saints).

This article explores the visual and textual intersection, whilst placing the poems and pictures within traditions of devotional iconography including estampas and santorales. Given that Silvina approaches the topic as a non-believer, whereas Norah believed fervently from childhood, Silvina's texts sometimes subvert Norah's sweetly childlike interpretation of the traditional images in suggestive ways. Silvina's attitude is frequently more ironic and perverse, delighting in accentuating details and aspects of the saints' martyrdom that Norah deliberately shuns, or allowing the saint a voice rather than being the passive object of devotion. Each woman's approach to these saints' lives acts as a foil for the other, and thus the volume is best regarded, 'neither as illustrated poems nor pictures with an epigraph' but something in between, as 'estampas que hablan'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-163
Number of pages15
JournalRomance Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2004

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