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Volume 54 / Humanities


Colonial: South America

HUMBERTO RODRIGUEZ-CAMILLONI, Professor and Director, Henry H. Wiss Center for Theory and History of Art and Architecture, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

THE EXTRAORDINARY STIMULUS PROVIDED by the celebration of the Quincentennial of the discovery of the Americas continues to be reflected in the quality and quantity of publications reviewed for this volume of HLAS. Any attempt at a bibliographical summary will inevitably do little justice to the many important contributions made by different scholars; thus only selected highlights can be presented here. In general, the high standard of scholarship noted for the previous biennium is maintained and it is most gratifying to observe that more and more studies guided by new methodological approaches are permitting a fuller understanding and greater appreciation of the rich Spanish American colonial cultural heritage.

Current research trends reveal a preference for thematic, iconographic, and comparative studies. The emphasis is therefore no longer on stylistic classification, but on a more serious investigation about the special distinctive qualities of colonial art and architecture. Notable examples of this approach are found in the excellent essays compiled in Relaciones artísticas entre España y América (item bi 9300561) and in the exibition catalogs Cambios: the spirit of transformation in Spanish colonial art (item bi 94008720) and Temples of gold, crowns of silver: reflections of majesty in the Viceregal Americas (Washington: George Washington Univ., 1989; many of this catalog's individual articles are annotated separately below).

By far the largest number of titles deal with architecture, urbanism, and painting, even though there are some outstanding works on other subjects. The scope ranges from the encyclopedic multi-volume, multi-authored Historia urbana de Iberoamérica (item bi 93000555) and the History of South American colonial art and architecture, a general survey by Damián Bayón and Murillo Marx (item bi 93000551), to the single-monument monograph such as Graziano Gasparini and Carlos F. Duarte's Historia de la Catedral de Caracas (item bi 93000564). Histories of individual cities and their cultural heritage are well represented by Potosí, patrimonio cultural de la humanidad (item bi 93000559) and Carlos Martínez's Santafé: capital del Nuevo Reino de Granada (item bi 93000558).

The Spanish government has continued to sponsor a number of fine books emphasizing cross-cultural relations between the Old and New Worlds. In some cases, these have been associated with handsome exhibitions held both in Spain and America at one time or another under the auspices of the Comisión de Estudios Históricos de Obras Públicas y de Urbanismo (CEHOPU). Two noteworthy examples are Puertos y fortificaciones en América y Filipinas (item bi 94008721), the well-illustrated catalog for the exhibition held in Madrid in 1985, and La ciudad hispanoamericana: el sueño de un orden (item bi 93000560) which accompanied the 1989 exhibition at Madrid's Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo, an exhibition which travelled to Washington to the OAS's Art Museum of the Americas in October, 1992.

In Latin America, banks and other private institutions have made possible the publication of many high quality books on art and architecture. Special mention should be made here of the deluxe series by El Sello Editorial in Bogotá, Colombia which will contribute to the dissemination of the artistic treasures of major Latin American cities during the Spanish colonial period. So far, Tesoros de Tunja (item bi 93000556) and Tesoros de Quito (item bi 93000557) have been released, but other volumes are expected to follow. Beautifully designed and illustrated with exquisite color photos (including some foldouts), these books are themselves truly works of art.

Several titles devoted to non-religious architecture are indicative of a new focus being placed on military and residential buildings. Gabriel Guarda's Flandes indiano: las fortificaciones del Reino de Chile, 1541-1826 may be singled out as a definitive study on the subject (item bi 93000550). The result of many years of archival research, it is a model of scholarly work lavishly illustrated with many full color reproductions of historic maps and drawings. On the other hand, Aurora Ruiz Mateos' Arquitectura civil de la Orden de Santiago en Extremadura: la casa de la encomienda; su proyección en Hispanoamérica (item bi 93003715) focuses on the typology of the little-known casa de encomienda and presents a research methodology that should prove valuable for similar studies throughout Spanish America.

Luis Mebold Köhnenkamp's Catálogo de pintura colonial en Chile (item bi 93000553) is a catalogue raisonné that sets a high standard for future publications on Spanish colonial painting while filling an important void in the literature on the subject. With painstaking care, the author discusses the colonial paintings housed in Santiago's convents, including their present state of conservation. Most important, perhaps, it presents a model research methodology and makes available for the first time a rich corpus of works virtually unknown to the scholarly community.

Escultura en el Perú (item bi 94009450) is an exceptional book largely devoted to Spanish colonial sculpture in the cities of Lima, Trujillo, Cusco and Arequipa. It is the most comprehensive study on the subject to date since Harold E. Wethey's pioneer work Colonial architecture and sculpture in Peru (Cambridge, 1949). Through authoritative texts and spectacular color plates, scholars now have the opportunity to appreciate the special qualities of this art in all its glory for the first time. A future volume will examine the development of colonial sculpture in other important centers, presumably including Cajamarca, Ayacucho and Huancavelica. As more inventories of colonial sculpture are completed in the different Latin American countries (items bi 93003698, bi 93003711, and bi 93003699), it is likely that more publications will address this topic in the future.
Titles devoted to the decorative arts deal primarily with silversmiths and their work. Among these is Carlos F. Duarte's El arte de la platería en Venezuela (item bi 93000554), an exhaustive study on the subject. With a complete biographical catalog of silversmiths active in Caracas and other cities of Venezuela from 1567-1810, this book is an indispensable reference for future studies.

Recent symposia that need to be recorded here include the two sessions on "Iberian American Architecture from the 16th through the 18th Centuries" held at the Society of Architectural Historians meeting (Albuquerque, N.M., April 1992) and the International Colloquium of the History of Art (17th, Zacatecas, Mexico, Sept. 1993). While not restricted to Spanish American colonial topics, both of these meetings gathered groups of renowned scholars from around the world who presented a cross-section of the state of the art of current research in the field. The Zacatecas colloquium stressed the theme of "Comparative Visions: Art, History and Identity in the Americas," thus offering unique cross-cultural perspectives within the hemisphere. It is hoped that the proceedings from this important event will soon be published by the Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México's Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas.

Finally, I should like to remember in a special way the names of a few distinguished colleagues and friends whose recent deaths have left significant voids in the field: Mario Chacón Torres (Bolivia, d. 1984); Jorge Bernales Ballesteros (Perú, d. 1991); Jesús Lámbarri Bracesco (Perú, d. 1991); and Jorge Hardoy (Argentina, d. 1993). Many of their valuable contributions have been reviewed in this and other volumes of HLAS and have been widely acclaimed by the international scholarly community. As a modest token of appreciation and gratitude, I dedicate this section to their memory.

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