Doña Mariana Belsunse y Salasar is portrayed in her Lima home dressed in a brilliantly embroidered tobajilla (ankle-length gown). She stands at her dressing table before an arched entry that gives way to a manicured landscape and the grand archway of the Paseo de Aguas leading to the Plaza de Acho, Lima’s famed bullring founded by Doña Mariana and her husband. The sitter became a leading social figure and hostess of a salon frequented by the countess of Monteblanco and Montemar and others of the Creole and peninsular Spanish elite.

Doña Mariana was best known, however, as a central figure in one of Lima’s most notorious social scandals of the day. Her hand was initially promised to Hipólito de Landaburrú, many years her senior and allegedly “uglier than an excommunication.” This proposed marriage, famously unwanted and unconsummated, was avoided when Doña Mariana entered the convent. Reemerging from the cloister in 1755, after her fiancé had died, she married Hipólito’s wealthy nephew, Colonel Agustín de Landaburrú y Rivera, Lima’s alcalde (mayor).