[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Volume 58 / 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 LAST BIENNIUM witnessed the passing away of one of the great Latin Americanist scholars of all times, Dr. George Alexander Kubler, Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Yale University, on Oct. 3, 1996. Many of Kubler's pioneer works, including The Religious Architecture of New Mexico in the Colonial Period and Since the American Occupation (1940; see HLAS 06:746), Mexican Architecture of the Sixteenth Century (1948; see HLAS 14:1723), and Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and their American Dominions, 1500-1800 with Martin Soria (l959; see HLAS 23:1421), established a solid foundation for future scholarship in the field of Spanish colonial art, which Kubler was largely responsible for legitimizing in the US. Accordingly, many of the items reviewed in this and previous volumes of HLAS are a tribute to his legacy. It is therefore with the deepest respect and appreciation that this section is dedicated to him.

Both quantitatively and qualitatively, the items reviewed here represent important advances of scholarship in the field. Well-documented monographs with high-quality illustrations, state-of-the-art museum exhibitions, and excellent critical catalogs allow an appreciation and better understanding of the rich Spanish colonial artistic and architectural heritage of the Americas. More rigorous research and a wider range of methods of analysis and interpretation reflect the formal academic training of a new generation of scholars. While new factual data continues to accumulate, comparative visions clarify the unique contributions of individuals and societal groups across space and time.

Encyclopedic volumes with contributions by teams of leading scholars, such as Pintura, escultura y artes útiles en Iberoamérica, 1500-1825 (item #bi 97015378#) and Encyclopedia of Latin American & Caribbean art (item #bi 00005952#), provide necessary information biographical information for artists and architects active in the Spanish viceroyalties, among other topics. Special mention must be made of Graziano Gasparini et al., Arquitectura colonial iberoamericana, a monumental deluxe anthology that is a triumph of contemporary scholarship (item #bi 00005951#). By far the most ambitious publication on the subject in recent years, the work is an outstanding contribution to the artistic literature of Spanish and Portuguese America.

Studies devoted to architecture and urbanism account for the largest number of titles, while others deal with painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts. Expanding on the earlier work by Alcides Parejas Moreno and Virgilio Suárez Salas' Chiquitos: historia de una utopía (1992; see HLAS 54:2442), Las misiones jesuíticas de Chiquitos, edited by Pedro Querejazu, is an exceptional publication containing a wealth of documentation on extant and lost Jesuit mission churches in the province of Chiquitos, today's department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia (item #bi 97015336#). Not only do fine quality color plates document the art and architecture of these missions churches today, but the inclusion of the complete Photographic Archive of Chiquitos consisting of 467 b/w historic photographs makes it an invaluable resource for scholars.

Germán Téllez Castañeda's La arquitectura colonial de Santa Cruz de Mompox is a revelation of a little-known but significant Spanish colonial town on the Magdalena river in Colombia (item #bi 97015338#). The main text, complemented with stunning color plates, captures the distinctive character of the historic religious and secular buildings of the town, constituting an impressive architectural corpus comparable to other Caribbean coastal cities like Cartagena, Colombia, and Coro, Venezuela. Equally important in this context is Graziano Gasparini's Coro: patrimonio mundial, celebrating the 1993 inclusion of the city in UNESCO's World Heritage List (item #bi 97015339#). Incorporating new material from recent research, this publication contributes a wealth of visual and documentary material that complements the earlier book by the same author, La arquitectura colonial de Coro (1961; see HLAS 24:1698).

Military and rural architecture are well represented by Ramón Gutiérrez and Cristina Esteras' Territorio y fortificación: Vauban, Fernández de Medrano, Ignacio Salas y Félix Prósperi: influencia en España y América (item #bi 97015376#) and Benjamín Barney and Francisco Ramírez's La arquitectura de las casas de hacienda en el Valle del Alto Cauca (item #bi 97015341#). The first title examines in detail the impact of the design and theoretical writings of the famous French military engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) on the formation of the Real Colegio de Ingenieros Militares in Spain and the practice of military engineering throughout Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition to the critical study by the authors, the book includes a valuable transcription of four major documentary sources by Du Fay (1702), Fernández de Medrano (1699), Sala (1743), and Prósperi (1744), making them available together for the first time. The second title fills a void in the artistic literature of colonial Spanish South America by focusing attention on the rarely discussed topic of rural architecture, marking the culmination of a survey of hacienda houses in the Valley of Alto Cauca, Colombia, and providing an architectural history and much needed complement to socioeconomic research on the subject.

Exemplary among the titles devoted to painting and sculpture is Arte y fe: colección artística agustina Colombia by Rodolfo Vallín Magaña et al., documenting the impressive restoration of religious art undertaken by the Taller de Restauración de San Agustín in Bogota (item #bi 97015340#). The critical catalog contains 541 entries of important works executed during the Spanish colonial period and later under the patronage of the Augustinian order.

The magnificent collection of colored drawings in Trujillo del Perú a fines del siglo XVIII deserves separate commentary (item #bi 97015379#). Now complete, the set of nine volumes reproducing in facsimile the colored drawings commissioned by Bishop Martínez de Compañón during his residence in Trujillo, Peru, from 1779-89, makes available a unique visual encyclopedia of far-reaching importance for disciplines beyond art and architectural history. The complementary study by Pablo Macera, Arturo Jiménez Borja, and Irma Franke, Trujillo del Perú: Baltazar Martínez Compañón; acuarelas; siglo XVIII, offers the best scholarly research of these drawings to date (item #bi 00006143#).

Even though studies on decorative arts represent the smallest number of works reviewed here, there is increasing interest in research in this area. In particular, colonial silverwork has been the subject of important publications in Peru and Ecuador in recent years. For example, thanks to the archival research of Jesús Paniagua Pérez and his colleagues in Quito (items #bi 97008353#, #bi 96024141#, and #bi 97004646#), much more is now known about the activities of the guild of silversmiths in that city and elsewhere in Ecuador during the 17th and 18th centuries. At the same time, Carlos F. Duarte's Mobiliario y decoración interior durante el período hispánico venezolano offers the most comprehensive history of furniture and decorative arts in Venezuela during the Spanish colonial period (item #bi 97015343#).

Outstanding critical catalogs that have accompanied major exhibitions of Spanish colonial art in the US and abroad include Converging cultures: art & identity in Spanish America, edited by Diana Fane (item #bi 97015345#); Platería iberoamericana: Fundación Santillana, junio-septiembre 1993 (item #bi 97015348#); La Plata del Plata (item #bi 97015366#); Potosi: Colonial Treasures from the Bolivian City of Silver, by Pedro Querejazu et al. (item #bi 98007129#); and Iglesia Museo Santa Clara, 1647 (item #bi 97015375#). These publications set high standards of scholarship, offering comprehensive discussions of the works in their historical context. The inclusion of bibliographies with primary and secondary sources adds to their usefulness.

The 49th International Congress of Americanists, held in Quito, Ecuador, July 7-11, 1997, included the symposium "Art and Architecture of Colonial Latin America: Comparative Visions," chaired by Clara Bargellini from the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM. This event sought an understanding of Spanish colonial art through a comparative vision of expressions from different regions to assess similarities and differences in iconographic, technical, and other issues. It is anticipated that the papers presented by a group of distinguished scholars (several of which dealt with South American topics) will be published in the near future.

From September 15-16, 2000, the symposium "Circa 1700: Architecture in Europe and the Americas" was held in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Sponsored in conjunction with the splendid exhibition "The Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600-1750," the program included a presentation by Francisco Stastny, "From Fountain to Bridge: Hispanism and Baroque Projects between 1650 and 1746 in Lima." The Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts will publish this and other papers from the meeting in a forthcoming volume of the National Gallery of Art's Studies in the History of Art under the editorial direction of Henry A. Millon.

Finally, mention should be made of the noteworthy exhibition "Santos: Substance & Soul" at the Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, from September 17, 2000-March 31, 2001. Sponsored by the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education, this fine exhibition examines from different points of view the images of saints from Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and the Philippines, from the colonial period and later. The exhibition places special emphasis on the need to appreciate these sculptural and painted images beyond their religious meaning to include the craft involved in their creation, evidence of their use, and ultimately, their preservation and deterioration as physical objects. Specialized scientific techniques, including material analysis and use of infrared and ultraviolet light and X-rays, permit viewers to better appreciate the works and celebrate many threads in contemporary American culture. Each piece in the exhibition is reproduced in a handsome color illustration with a complete descriptive caption in the companion publication, "Exhibition Objects List." Designed as a traveling exhibition, it is scheduled to open at the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque on June 22, 2001, and at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan on December 14, 2001, thus contributing to the dissemination of an important aspect of Spanish and Portuguese colonial art of the Americas.

Go to the:

Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (11/15/11)