Period Portraits: “Mad Enchantment-The Fantastical Folk of Fatima Ronquillo”

A new interview article Mad Enchantment―The Fantastical Folk of Fatima Ronquillo is on Period Portraits’ blog Consider. I talk about paintings I have loved and been inspired by as well as the motivation and fascination that portraits and printmaking hold for me. It was an honor and pleasure to be interviewed by Nick Cox, specialist dealer in period portraiture from the 17th to the 20th Century. His blog is full of interesting and educational articles for lovers of the genre. He can also be found on the delightful Instagram feed @periodportraits.

“Mad Enchantment – The Fantastical Folk of Fatima Ronquillo” featuring “The Foundling” by Fatima Ronquillo

The secrets out, I love the work of Fatima Ronquillo! This self-taught painter artfully marries old master techniques with a mystical modern sensibility, and the results are just dreamy.

Nick Cox, Period Portraits
Period Portraits “Consider” blog by Nick Cox @periodportraits on Instagram

“Lover’s EYES: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection” and The Financial Times

My painting “Together” was featured on The Financial Times in the “How To Spend It” column by Victoria Woodcock on November 23, 2021. Will you fall for a ‘lover’s eye’ jewel? illuminates the revival of interest in the lover’s eye jewelry. It is a fascinating read on the history of the jewels, their newfound popularity and how to buy the real thing. Elle Shushan, a Philadelphia dealer of lover’s eyes and editor of the new book Lover’s EYES: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection gives her expertise as well as background on the Skier Collection of the jewels.

I am also very thrilled to share that two of my paintings are in the book Lover’s EYES: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection. They appear as representations of the lover’s eye in contemporary art in the chapter essay “Love Never Dies” by Graham C. Boettcher, PhD, the R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama.The book is an updated edition of the original first published in 2012 and includes new essays, additional lover’s eyes and contemporary examples.

It is also worth noting that Ronquillo’s artistic world―which includes lover’s eyes whose subjects are black―is more diverse than the history of almost exclusively white eye miniature sitters from which it stems. Although Ronquillo’s work evokes the lover’s eye tradition, her miniatures are emblems rather than true portraits.

~ Dr. Graham C. Boettcher

The surreal aspect of an isolated eye attracts me tremendously—the idea of physical dismemberment which is symbolic of a removal or estrangement of a loved one. For anyone who’s ever been in love or had a crush on someone, the photograph of the beloved is treasured. So these are portable remembrances before the camera so to speak. It also reminds me of the mexican ‘milagros’ – little charms of different body parts used to aid in praying for the healing of broken arms or hearts, or even eyes.Compositionally speaking, the framed ornamental eye gives context and a reason for a floating third or fourth eye in a painting. It’s a device of conceit: a portrait within a portrait. For me, it’s an iconic symbol about the figure represented not unlike the reliquaries of saints in old devotional images. The lover’s eye first appeared in my work in 2008 and it continues to be a subject full of mystery and delight.

Hand with Hummingbird and Lover’s Eye
etching with chine collé
16×14 inches paper size, 8×6 inches image size
©2021 Fatima Ronquillo

for purchase inquiry, please contact Blackrock Editions 

Marie Claire, December 2016

“Hand with Snake and Weeping Eye” appears in Marie Claire magazine’s December 2016 issue. Thank you to Marie Claire creative director Nina Garcia for selecting my little painting in the “What Nina Loves” luxury items feature.



Hand with Snake and Weeping Eye
“Hand with Snake and Weeping Eye” oil on panel, 7×5 inches, private collection

PA #53, March 2014


Poets and Artists Issue #53: “Love”
March 2014
Curated by Marina Press



1. What are these paintings of? Tell me a little bit about each one?

“Abbandonata” is about loss and mourning. It actually depicts a painting of a dead bird I found on one of my walks near my home. It was such a beautiful sparrow with these ruby red feathers and I have painted it several times over the past couple of years. Of course it’s a small nod to Dutch still life paintings of game birds and fowls. The girl has a weeping lover’s eye brooch. She is abandoned not just the little bird but by the departed lover as well.

“Suitor with Letter and Carnation” is a simple declaration of love and admiration.

“Young Woman with Cupid” is a rather funny painting. It’s a lady catching an errant mischievous cupid. Perhaps she doesn’t want to fall in love and has had quite enough of Cupid’s meddling. Or… maybe she desperately wants love and finally caught a cupid to do her bidding.

2. Although these are portraits there are sorts of hidden stories in them due to the symbolism. Tell me what that symbolism is. 

The symbolism is not very hidden and quite a few are traditional symbols such as the carnation of “affection” and the lover’s eyes are miniatures painted as love mementos popular in the late 18th Century. I adore the idea of the lover’s eye… it is the unseen lover, the object of the portrait sitter’s affection. I am also quite fond of ephemeral symbols such as birds, nest and flowers because of how they are a continuation of the “vanitas” genre in painting.

3. These paintings evoke love. But, do they evoke heartbreak? How so?

I think the symbols of love are obvious – the offerings of blossoms and love tokens. But also the heartbreak is quite literal in the dead bird and mourning veil and in other paintings of mine in visible wounds. In “Young Woman with Cupid” possible heartbreak or disappointment can also be read.

4. Are they autobiographical at all? 

I hope not… Seriously I try not to be precious about my work and some parts of my life probably creep into the paintings. Luckily I have a disposition that tends to be playful so a lot of that absurdity probably becomes a part of the works.

5. What inspires the clothing that your subjects are wearing? Did you dream them up as well? 

The clothing is just something that evolved through the years. They’re from all time periods because I’m a lover of art history and I appropriate whatever amuses me.

6. Your paintings seem to transport us back in time with their technique. Please tell me your secret.

I don’t have a secret beyond that which can be found in classical painting techniques. The only thing that might be unique in my painting method is I never dilute paint so there is a lushness to the paint itself.  It’s a happy consequence of creating a solvent-free studio environment. In other words… I never use mineral spirits.

7. Are there any works of literature that inspire you as well?

I’m a book lover. Shakespeare and Madame Bovary have inspired some works. At the moment I am reading M.F.K. Fisher’s collected works “The Art of Eating” so there might be a lot of food still life in the future.



Mondobelo, November 2013

An interview with online magazine, Mondobelo. Please scroll down for an English translation…


Mondobelo Magazine
November 2013

Fátima Ronquillo se mudó de Filipinas a Texas cuando tenía diez años y desde entonces se recuerda metida en la biblioteca copiando las reproducciones de los grandes maestros clásicos de los libros de arte.

En esta entrevista le preguntamos por las indumentarias clásicas, los ojos de amante, la aparienciencia misteriosa de sus protagonistas y la simbología que se han convertido en señas de identidad de sus obras.

Fátima, eres una pintora autodidacta, ¿hubo un momento decisivo en el que decidiste que esto se convirtiese en tu profesión?

– En realidad, no. He creado y expuesto desde que era muy joven así que fue una transición natural, aunque pasaron muchos años hasta que pude vivir de ello.

Tengo la sensación de que gran parte del encanto de los protagonistas de tus retratos reside en el halo de misterio que los envuelve y que nos hace querer saber más sobre ellos. Consigues que posean una mezcla de inocencia y de tener algo que ocultar, ¿es lo que buscas?

– Sí, dan la sensación de ser reticentes a mostrar su interior. Hay una persona pública y una privada, oculta. Ése es el tesoro por descubrir.

The Companion ●
The Companion

Lady with Honey Thief ●
Lady with Honey Thief

Masked Child with Tulip ●
Masked Child with Tulip

¿Qué pretendes comunicar con tu arte?

– Amor y belleza, acompañados de la inocencia, la alegría, la incomodidad y la soledad.

Muchos de los elementos que aparecen en tu obra (flechas, arlequines, máscaras, animales), ¿poseen un simbolismo?

– Oh… son meros accesorios. Su simbolismo es bastante obvio: las flechas hacen referencia al amor, las máscaras al hecho de ocultarse a sí mismos, los animales insinúan sus alter egos o la parte salvaje que hay en nosotros.

Abbandonata ●

Martyred Lover ●
Martyred Lover

The Inconstant ●
The Inconstant

Entre todos esos accesorios, las joyas y en especial los ojos de amante, son muy frecuentes. ¿Puedes recordar el primero que viste y el primero que pintaste?

– El primero que vi lo descubrí en un blog y me quedé impactada. Me atrajo la idea de un ojo aislado y el desmembramiento físico como símbolo de la separación del ser amado. Para alguien enamorado, una foto de la persona que ama es un tesoro. Después, en 2010 pinté una figura en un traje militar verde que sostenía un ojo de amante.

Se ha convertido en un objeto recurrente en tu obra, ¿qué te fascina de esta joya?,¿qué le aporta a la pieza?

– Es un símbolo del amor, de la ausencia, los secretos y la nostalgia. Es maravillosamente surrealista y a la vez dota de un contexto a un ojo flotante: un retrato dentro de un retrato.

Bound Hand with Lover's Eye ●
Bound Hand with Lover’s Eye

Incognito ●

Hand with Lover's Eye ●
Hand with Lover’s Eye

Me pregunto si alguien que ve las ropas y la atmósfera que rodea a tus personajes sin tener ninguna pista de su autor, pensaría que se trata de una obra actual, ¿qué buscas en la estética de tiempos pasados?

– Adoro los trajes, la seriedad de los retratos, los adornos alegóricos… Soy una amante de la historia del arte y aprendí a dibujar copiando a Tiziano, Bellini, Watteau o Poussin, así que recorrer diferentes épocas es infinitamente fascinante para mí.

A Fátima le atrae la capacidad del amor para provocar placer y dolor y le intrigan las cicatrices que las personas que hemos amado van dejando en nosotros. Como si se tratase de alguno de sus enigmáticos personajes, cuando le pregunto si su interés por este tipo de historias esconde a una persona apasionada, me responde: “Quizás…”