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Volume 60 / Humanities


Colonial: South America

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

WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, items reviewed for this volume of HLAS represent significant contributions to the artistic literature of Spanish colonial South America. Several titles set a high standard of scholarship that will help establish or strengthen solid foundations for future studies in the field. Even though studies on architecture and urbanism still account for the largest number of publications—with those devoted to painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts lagging behind—a more consistent rigor of scholarly research and a variety of methodological approaches rather than standard chronological surveys are more prevalent throughout the field. Reviews of the historiography of colonial art and architecture during the last two decades by several authors confirm this assessment (see items #bi 99007267#, #bi 99007268#, and #bi 99007266#).

Religious architecture, in particular, is well represented by a number of beautifully illustrated publications that also exemplify outstanding scholarly research. One example is Monasterios Iberoamericanos by Bonet Correa, which offers a comprehensive discussion of the important role that Christianity and the religious orders played in the colonization of the Americas and how the evangelical mission received its most tangible expression in magnificent buildings (item #bi2003005285#). The work is an excellent addition to the Biblioteca Mundo Hispánico by Editorial El Viso and should be consulted together with Navascués Palacio's Las catedrales del Nuevo Mundo (Madrid, 2000) in the same series.

The ongoing inclusion of historic monuments and sites in UNESCO's World Heritage List continues to serve as an impetus for fine publications while helping to promote the restoration and conservation of Latin America's endangered cultural heritage. The Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis by Gazaneo et al. documents a model international intervention in Paraguay by UNESCO and ICOMOS (item #bi2002004758#). In Peru, the recent efforts conducted by the municipal government in Lima to rehabilitate plazas and streets within the historic district with impressive results are fully discussed in Lima: Centro Histórico (item #bi2002004753#). Such initiatives, worthy of emulation, are finally receiving the recognition and dissemination they deserve.

Gisbert and De Mesa's second revised and expanded edition of Arquitectura andina, 1530–1830 is an exemplary work, representing a lifetime of scholarly research (item #bi2002004766#). Several of the studies in this classic anthology are of seminal importance in the field. This edition, which includes a previously unpublished chapter on the industrial city of Potosí, Bolivia, makes these long out-of-print studies available to a new generation of readers.

As noted by Gutiérrez in his brief review of the historiography of Peruvian architecture and urbanism during the last two decades, there remain major voids in the study of civil, vernacular, and rural architecture, particularly in remote areas and regions outside principal urban centers (item #bi 99007268#). These observations would equally apply to the rest of South America. Nevertheless, two recent contributions covering these topics are noteworthy. Item #bi 99009531# involves important archival and historical archeological research of a house in the city of Old Santa Fé, Argentina; while item #bi2003005288# is a splendid monograph dealing with the famous Casa del Moral in Arequipa, Peru.

Deluxe multi-authored monumental works on architecture, painting, and sculpture include Barroco iberoamericano (item #bi2002004751#); Caazapá: las reducciones franciscanas y los Guaraní del Paraguay (item #bi2002004761#); Perú: fe y arte en el Virreynato (item #bi2002004752#); and El barroco peruano (item #bi2003005287#). Among these, the latter deserves to be singled out as the most successful attempt at reinterpreting the concept of a "baroque style" as applied to the art and architecture of Spanish colonial Peru. Departing from standard chronological and factual presentations, this book offers a thematic approach using different methods of analysis and interpretation that should serve as inspiration for future studies. The magnificent color photographs, never before reproduced, add immensely to the better appreciation of works discussed in the text.

Banking institutions throughout Latin America continue to sponsor some of the finest publications in the field (items #bi2003005287#, #bi2002004762#, and #bi2002004759#). This patronage is of vital importance since the rising costs of lavishly illustrated books in most countries make many publications impossible. Some institutions, such as Peru's Banco del Sur (Bancosur) and Banco de Crédito, have established a record of distinguished series like the Colección Arte y Tesoros del Perú (item #bi2003005287#). One major drawback of these publications, however, is their limited circulation (typically only among patrons of the respective institutions), thus making them generally inaccessible to academic communities or the public.

A remarkable work devoted to sculpture is Majluf and Wuffarden, La piedra de Huamanga: lo sagrado y lo profano, which gives the art of Peruvian alabaster carving the attention it deserves (item #bi2002004765#). Often categorized as popular art or craft, Huamanga stone sculpture merits recognition as a fine art in its own right, representative of a tradition that originated in the Spanish colonial period and continues today in the central Andes of Peru. By far the most complete study on the subject to date, it significantly expands Stastny's earlier treatment in Las artes populares del Perú (see HLAS 46:316).

Items #bi2002004764#, #bi2002004756#, #bi 00006460#, and #bi 99007264# focus on the iconography of Spanish colonial art. Most welcome here is the third volume of Schenone's Iconografía del arte colonial, devoted to the iconography of Jesus Christ (item #bi2002004764#). A monumental work modeled after Réau's classic Iconographie de l'art chrétien (Paris, l955–59), it offers the most complete list of representational themes accompanied by the identification of specific pictorial and/or sculptural examples with information about their location in public and private collections throughout Latin America and the US. Cummins' paper presented at the first Encuentro Internacional de Peruanistas uses an innovative semiotic approach to study early Spanish colonial art in Peru, which leads to a new interpretation that transcends the conventional analysis of problems surrounding indigenous idolatry and the description and iconographic analysis of Christian art (item #bi 99007264#).

New archival research conducted in Lima (items #bi 99001021#, #bi 99001020#, #bi 99001009#) and Arequipa (item #bi 99007394#) has led to the discovery of a wealth of reliable documentation that significantly expands our knowledge of the life and work of architects and artists active during the Spanish colonial period. These primary sources are of critical importance for they permit the identification of the names of individuals associated with the different artistic professions and the extent of their contributions. Remaining questions of attribution for existing works can often also be put to rest; while in other instances the written records are the only remaining testimony of their work. For example, Lohmann Villena's fine research on the Corral de las Comedias in Lima provides detailed descriptions of the physical appearance of an important public building no longer extant as it was restored and partially rebuilt in the mid-17th century (item #bi 99001021#).

Studies on decorative arts are again few in number, but continue to reflect an increasing interest in colonial silverwork. La platería en el Perú by Del Busto Duthurburu is much more than a catalog documenting the Enrico Poli collection in Lima, one of the finest collections in South America (item #bi2003005286#). The erudite text provides a comprehensive overview of the major centers of production throughout the viceroyalty of Peru, discussing the silversmith guild's organization and identifying artisans active during the time. In turn, Plata y plateros del Perú by Carcedo Muro et al., offers a more complete study of Peruvian silver and the art of the silversmith from precolumbian times through the 20th century (item #bi2002004757#). Much more modest in presentation and scope but also featuring examples of decorative arts are the museum catalogs Breve catálogo del Museo de Arte Colonial [de Quito] (item #bi2002004760#), Casa Real de la Moneda [de Potosí] (item #bi2002004754#), and Arte del período hispánico venezolano en la hacienda Carabobo (item #bi2002004755#).

Another category of titles corresponds to papers presented at international conferences or symposia. As is the case with other disciplines, these events are becoming increasingly important due to the special opportunities they provide for the exchange of ideas among scholars while at the same time helping to minimize the duplication of research efforts. Depending on the themes covered, some of these meetings have also encouraged meaningful and very much needed interdisciplinary collaborations. In chronological order, they include: Segunda Conferencia Internacional de Arqueología Histórica (Santa Fe, Argentina, l995) (item #bi 99009531#); Tercer Simposio Panamericano de Historia (Mexico City, l995) (items #bi 99007401# and #bi 99007394#); Primero Encuentro Internacional de Peruanistas (Lima, l996) (items #bi 99007264#, #bi 99007267#, #bi 99007268#, #bi 99007266#); The Jesuits II Conference on Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773, (Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass., 2002) (proceedings awaiting publication by Univ. of Toronto Press); and First International Congress on Construction History (Madrid, 2003) (will be reviewed in HLAS 62). Participation of both the academic communities and general public in these events provides yet another effective platform for the dissemination of studies on Spanish colonial art and architecture.

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