Spanish colonial art

Unknown master. Madonna and Child and Bird. 1745.
Unknown master. Madonna and Child and Bird. 1745.

The winner is always stronger. Together with the warrior’s boot, a new order, a foreign philosophy, comes to the conquered lands. And no matter how much the defeated people want to preserve their identity, gradually local traditions are mixed with foreign rules. And a new culture is being formed – unique, original, interesting. This is how Spanish colonial art emerged.

The American Indian tribes resisted long and stubbornly, but the conquistadors who arrived from Europe began to found cities, build monasteries, and build bridges. Naturally, Aboriginal people were involved in the work. The Spaniards brought European canons with them, but too close communication with local residents and climate characteristics still had a certain influence on the development of Latin American culture.

Sebastian Lopez de Arteaga Archangel Michael and the bull. Around 1650. Oil on canvas.
Sebastian Lopez de Arteaga Archangel Michael and the bull. Around 1650. Oil on canvas.
Unknown master Crucifer. Around 1650. Gold, emeralds, pearls.
Unknown master Crucifer. Around 1650. Gold, emeralds, pearls.

The introduction of new orders took place in the following main directions:

  • enlightenment;
  • architecture;
  • painting;
  • sculpture.
Attributed to Juan Bautista Vázquez, the Virgin Mary in prayer. Around 1675. Oil on canvas.
Attributed to Juan Bautista Vázquez, the Virgin Mary in prayer. Around 1675. Oil on canvas.
Unknown Master Miska. End of the 17th century. Ceramics, lead or tin glaze, cobalt coloring. Height 1 5.2.
Unknown Master Miska. End of the 17th century. Ceramics, lead or tin glaze, cobalt coloring. Height 1 5.2.

The first to come to America were missionaries – representatives of monastic orders, who were supposed to support the spirit of true Catholicism in the Spaniards and Portuguese, and at the same time instill in the Indians a new religion. During the first hundred years, 70 thousand churches and about 5 thousand monasteries were built in the Spanish colonies, which had to be decorated and painted. Thus, the conquered territories were replenished with people of art – architects, artists, sculptors. They worked alone and founded family workshops or artels. And by the beginning of the 17th century, Latin America was dominated by artists who were born on this land. They had nothing in common with European styles; they created in a colonial direction.

Unknown master Virgin Mary with a spindle. Around 1700. Oil on canvas.
Unknown master Virgin Mary with a spindle. Around 1700. Oil on canvas.
Unknown master Receiving guests on the terrace of a country house. Screen. Around 1725. Oil on canvas, gilding.
Unknown master Receiving guests on the terrace of a country house. Screen. Around 1725. Oil on canvas, gilding.

After the conquistadors, nobles, workers, and peasants went to America. There was a request for fashionable buildings, decorative arts, and household items. European Gothic and classicism did not take root in the colonies – materials, natural conditions, and Aboriginal traditions contributed to the introduction of some motifs of Indian art into architecture and painting. The buildings, unlike classical Spanish buildings, were static and symmetrical. The interior decoration was expressive and even a certain chaos, into which it was easy to introduce elements from other styles, for example, Moorish or Asian.

Workshop of Bernardo Legarda Our Lady of Quito. Around 1750. Wood, gold, silver, painted.
Workshop of Bernardo Legarda Our Lady of Quito. Around 1750. Wood, gold, silver, painted.

And then, for two long centuries, colonial baroque reigned in the Spanish colonies. It is not surprising that this pompous style became the favorite direction of the colonial government and the nobility close to it. Luxury and splendor, rich decor and the ability to use expensive materials – the Baroque style met the requirements of the time, both economic and ideological. During this period, the volume of gold and silver production increased, and accordingly, the owners of the mines, the clergy, and the local aristocracy became rich. Excess wealth literally splashed out on estates, interiors, decorations, and sculpture.

Luis Niño Our Lady of Victory of Malaga. Around 1740. Oil on canvas, gold leaf.
Luis Niño Our Lady of Victory of Malaga. Around 1740. Oil on canvas, gold leaf.
Spanish colonial art Unknown master Saint Ferdinand 1730–1760. Wood, plaster, gold, coloring. Height 193.
Unknown master Saint Ferdinand 1730–1760. Wood, plaster, gold, coloring. Height 193.

The decoration of the churches looked unusual. In the interior, next to the classical images of the holy martyrs, pagan symbols and signs, ornaments, and patterns suddenly appeared. The characteristic facial features of the Indians clearly appeared through the face of the saint on the icon.

In the painting of colonial America, religious themes at first predominated. Later other genres appeared – still lifes, landscapes, everyday life. The first painting schools were founded in Mexico City, Bogota, and Caracas. One of the brightest and largest artists of that era was Miguel Cabrera, who worked on orders from the Jesuits.

Spanish colonial art Sebastian Salcedo Virgin Mary of Guadalupe 1779. Copper, oil.
Sebastian Salcedo Virgin Mary of Guadalupe 1779. Copper, oil.

Gradually the boundaries were erased. The monumental architecture of that era has been preserved to this day, paintings and sculptures have been preserved.

Spanish colonial art Unknown master Inca Princess Early 19th century. Canvas, oil.
Unknown master Inca Princess Early 19th century. Canvas, oil.
Spanish colonial art Unknown master Tupac Yupanqui. End of the 19th century. Canvas, oil.
Unknown master Tupac Yupanqui. End of the 19th century. Canvas, oil.
Spanish colonial art Molleno Iconostasis. Around 1825. Wooden board, plaster, painting.
Molleno Iconostasis. Around 1825. Wooden board, plaster, painting.
Spanish colonial art Raphael Aragon Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Around 1830. Wood, plaster, painting.
Raphael Aragon Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Around 1830. Wood, plaster, painting.
Spanish colonial art Saint Michael Killing the Devil (S. Michael the Archangel).
Saint Michael Killing the Devil (S. Michael the Archangel).
Missal stand (atril).
Missal stand (atril).
Hanging votive lamp, Mexican, 1637.
Hanging votive lamp, Mexican, 1637.
Chalice and Paten, circa 1560. Pedro Hernandez Atenziano (active in Guatemala and Peru), 1510 1584.
Chalice and Paten, circa 1560. Pedro Hernandez Atenziano (active in Guatemala and Peru), 1510 1584.
Castas de Nueva España (Caste of New Spain).
Castas de Nueva España (Spanish colonial art).
Mate Cup, Spanish Colonial, 1875 1900.
Mate Cup, Spanish Colonial, 1875 1900.
Spanish colonial art Escritorio (writing desk), around 1671.
Escritorio (writing desk), around 1671.
Spanish colonial art Chest of drawers (cómoda), 1750 1800.
Chest of drawers (cómoda), 1750 1800.
Spanish colonial art Cathedral of San Cristobal.
Cathedral of San Cristobal.
Spanish colonial art Interior of the Monastery of Saint Benedict, Rio.
Interior of the Monastery of Saint Benedict, Rio. Spanish colonial art.
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