JAIC 1999, Volume 38, Number 2, Article 1 (pp. 100 to 123)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1999, Volume 38, Number 2, Article 1 (pp. 100 to 123)

BLUE PIGMENTS IN SOUTH AMERICAN PAINTING (1610–1780)

ALICIA M. SELDES, JOSÉ EMILIO BURUCÚA, MARTA S. MAIER, GONZALO ABAD, ANDREA JÁUREGUI, & GABRIELA SIRACUSANO



1 PAINTING IN THE ANDES: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Three Italian artists introduced the European manner to the viceroyalty of Peru in the 17th century: Mateo da Lecce (known as Mateo Pérez de Alesio), Angelino Medoro, and Bernardo Bitti, all of whom were trained in the great Italian workshops of the High Renaissance. Bitti worked in the Cuzco region during the first years of the 17th century and left some disciples, including Pedro de Vargas and Gregorio Gamarra. Although Pérez de Alesio and Medoro painted almost all their works in Lima, Perez's influence seems to have spread throughout the Peruvian territory, including Cuzco, by means of the drawings and copies of engravings produced in his workshop. Medoro's style reached the ancient Inca capital when Luis de Riaño, one of his pupils, settled there. Until 1650, Cuzco painting followed the manner of the High Renaissance: monumental and enlarged figures dressed in voluminous clothes, presented either in small groups on neutral backgrounds or in large, crowded scenes that cover almost the entire canvas. Engravings of complex sacred allegories and emblems, produced in the Flemish, French, or Italian workshops, spread throughout the Americas to support the propaganda of the church of the Counterreformation. These models inspired the approaches to landscape, urban scenes, perspective, and architectural interiors among Andean painters. The palette, limited to ochre, yellow, blue, and intense red, became increasingly complex and was enriched by the use of gold to re-create the luster of jewels and the rich and varied textures of cloth.

The preferred themes of the patrons—mostly bishops and religious orders—were the lives of the saints presented in series of 20 or more detailed paintings describing episodes of their existence and the exemplary ways of Christian sanctity. Between 1650 and 1700, the most important painters were José Espinoza de los Monteros, the Indian Basilio de Santa-Cruz, and the Mestizo Diego Quispe Tito. At the same time, far from the Cuzco circle, the painting of Potosí reached its highest point, especially in the works of Melchor Pérez Holguín (active 1685–1740), perhaps the most personal artist of the South American colonial period.

During the 18th century, the artists of the Cuzco school continued in the tradition of the preceding baroque era. Large workshops, directed by such renowned masters as Basilio Pacheco and Marcos Zapata, produced series of paintings in an almost industrial way, with specialized artists for every phase of the execution (one for the faces and hands and others for flower decorations, landscapes, and details). The huge number of paintings thus produced were delivered throughout a large territory, including major cities and smaller villages in Argentina and Chile.


Copyright © 1999 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works