Portrait of Don Antonio Maria Lugo

Don Antonio Maria Lugo, Photograph album of early Los Angeles (Collection 94/57). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

An image depicts a man in black and white rendering, likely a drawing. It is a portrait: the man’s head and torso are in three quarter view, facing the right side of the image. He is wearing a large top hat, slanted toward his front, and what appears to be another cloth head-covering underneath. His hair is white, slightly wavy, and about chin-length. The wrinkles on his forehead, under his eyes, and on his cheeks indicate he is of older age. The wrinkles in between his eyebrows are especially noticeable, giving him a stern but worrisome expression. His facial features are large and prominent on his face, especially his eyes and nose. He is neatly dressed in a black dress jacket, collared white shirt, and tie. The portrait is framed by a dark, oval vignette.

There is one line of inscription at the bottom of the image: “Don Antonio Maria Lugo – came to Los Angeles 1803.” This portrait of Don Antonio Maria Lugo was found in the photograph album of early Los Angeles. I encountered it while conducting archival research at the UCLA Library Special Collections for Professor Lopez’s digital humanities course on Mexican history in California. From the portrait’s formal qualities, we can infer that the subject was a man of prominence. His status granted him a portrait drawing created for archival purpose, to be remembered by future generations. This image is the only labeled formal portrait in the photograph album of early Los Angeles. While the label states Lugo’s year of arrival in Los Angeles, we do not know the year the image was created nor the age at which Lugo was depicted. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article indicates that the Lugo family was sent from Spanish-dominated Mexico to settle in Northern California in 1773 (Griego). Antonio Maria Lugo later became mayor of Los Angeles and one of California’s largest landowners. It is unsurprising that the only known subject in this photograph album of early Los Angeles is a mayor-landowner of Spanish origin.

Although the photo album included a subject heading for “Mexicans,” I unfortunately could not identify any images that gave visual cues to Mexican California. After a few quick web searches, it is apparent that this portrait is perhaps the only known image of Don Antonio Maria Lugo. Every essay, description, anecdote about Lugo and his family is accompanied by this same stoic black and white portrait. It is interesting to think about which images will remain of and represent different communities in the distant future. While Lugo is remembered by his stern facial expression, others in his era live without archival representation. It was challenging to locate images of Mexicans, and many photographs remain unlabeled. The scarcity of visual artifacts during this period in this collection of early Los Angeles photographs is indicative of the hierarchies that exist in archives. What objects and documents are preserved in archives? What subjects are included and excluded? This portrait of Don Antonio Maria Lugo is just one example of the limitations that exist in narrating history through archival research.