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Volume 52 / Humanities


Colonial: General, Middle America, and the Caribbean

BARBARA VON BARGHAHN, Professor of Art History, George Washington University

AS THE QUINCENTENNIAL OF THE SPANISH ENCOUNTER in the New World approaches, scholars have provided a plethora of exemplary books and articles, the majority of which break new ground with documentary information. Besides this substantial research on the encounter, there are also publications that delve into problematic issues of patronage and reconstruction of lost monuments. Reformulation of traditional points of view and provocative arguments offering sociological insights are indicative of new avenues now being explored. However, this compendium suggests a course for future study: interpretative analyses of stylistic and iconographical crosscurrents between viceregal centers.

While the majority of texts concentrate upon the architecture, sculpture, painting and decorative arts of New Spain, the mantle of documentary and archival research has extended to cover many previously ignored sites. Recent publications in architecture include general comprehensive books (items bi 91000852, bi 90003604, bi 91000822, and bi 91000826) and more specific studies of regional buildings (items bi 92009081, bi 91000840, bi 90003632, bi 91000834, and bi 91000807). Particularly useful sources concern the colonial monuments of Oaxaca (items bi 91000816, bi 91000842, bi 91000832, bi 90003603, and bi 90003610), Jalisco and Michoacán (items bi 91000825, bi 91000841, bi 91000843, bi 91000806, and bi 91000829), Puebla (items bi 91000808, bi 90003627, bi 90003598, and bi 91000847), Zacatecas (items bi 91000812 and bi 91000848), and the Yucatán (items bi 91000849 and bi 90003620). Viceregal Mexico City is the subject of numerous works (items bi 91000835, bi 90003612, bi 90003621, bi 90003615, bi 91000845, and bi 91000839), and noteworthy documentary research on urbanization and secular architecture has also been provided (items bi 91000814, bi 91000836, bi 91000820, bi 90003608, bi 91000831, bi 90003626, bi 91000851, and bi 91000853).

Knowledge about commercial centers of art has been expanded, with studies covering Campeche (item bi 90003625), Honduras (items bi 91000833 and bi 91000850), El Salvador (item bi 91000827), Panama (items bi 91000837 and bi 90003628), Dominican Republic (item bi 91000805), Cuba (item bi 91000813), and Puerto Rico (item bi 91000846). A study of Philippine ivories and the "Manila Galleon" trade is a vital resource for historians (item bi 90003602).

Texts pertaining to the decorative arts encompass subjects ranging from the production of works in mother-of-pearl (item bi 90003623) to metal works (items bi 91000828, bi 90003601, bi 91000817, bi 90003606, and bi 90003609). An important sociological and artistic study on the ritualistic usage of masks in Guatemala (item bi 90003618) merits additional praise because of its bilingual text. Studies of ephemeral art also investigate royal exequies in the Americas (items bi 90003624 and bi 90003630).

This biennial includes much pertinent material about Mexican and Guatemalan collections of colonial paintings and sculpture (items bi 90003611, bi 90003613, bi 90003600, bi 91000809, bi 90003614, and bi 90003599). Singular methodological contributions to the field of art history are monographs on Luis Juárez (item bi 90003622), Juan Correa (item bi 90003605), and patronage in New Spain (item bi 90003617). Although iconography still remains a relatively unexplored area of art historical research (items bi 90003607 and bi 90003630), scholars have investigated the influence of religious orders in Mexico and Guatemala (items bi 90003616, bi 91000844, and bi 90003619). Attention also has been directed towards museology, cultural projects of national patrimony, and legal issues (items bi 91000815, bi 91000821, bi 91000823, bi 91000824, and bi 91000811).

Among the imposing number of texts, Historia del arte hispanoamericano: siglos XVI a XVIII (item bi 91000810) by Jorge Bernales Ballesteros is worthy of special recognition. Copiously illustrated and thoroughly documented, this work reveals an extraordinary breadth of knowledge about viceregal art and patronage. The premature death of Ballesteros in Seville leaves a void that will be hard to fill.

There are only a few specialists who are examining stylistic and iconographical crosscurrents between Andalusia and the New World (items bi 91000838 and bi 91000830). However, Presencia del arte hispánico en el mundo colonial americano (item bi 90003629) offers a commendable example of an interdisciplinary effort to address cultural encounters in the wake of the Spanish encounter. Conferences provide an active forum for debate and presentation of revolutionary approaches to traditional subjects. Symposia commemorating the Columbus Quincentennial should mark a trend towards reexamination of artistic legacies in the viceregal Americas. More bilingual publications would augment interest in colonial art history and aid in the dissemination of knowledge at US universities.

This section includes more than twice as many items as it did in HLAS 50, even after the great majority of applicable journal articles were eliminated due to space limitations. Readers are urged to consult the Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas (México: Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México, 1986-1988, vols. 55-59) for many additional scholarly articles.

In completing this review of recently published books and articles, the contributing editor gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Ms. Evelyn Figueroa of The Smithsonian Institution.

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