dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Friday, August 11, 2017

Painted in Mexico

My principal reason for going downtown on Wednesday was to visit the latest art exhibit at Iturbide's Palace.  I have written on this blog about a number of exhibits that I have seen in this 18th century mansion.  The building is today owned by Banamex (the Bank of Mexico) and is the headquarters of their "Fomento Cultural" (Cultural Promotion) organization.  Two months ago I was here to see their exhibit of paintings by the Mexican Baroque painter Cristóbal Villalpando.  (That show is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.)  Continuing with the theme of art from colonial Mexico, this new exhibit, called "Pintado en México" (Painted in Mexico), displays more than 100 paintings from Mexico City in the 1700s.

The show will be here through October, and then it will travel to the Los Angeles County Art Museum and then to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Unlike those museums, I am sure, admission to the exhibit here at Iturbide's Palace is free!

Many of the works in the show are of course religious paintings.  The Church was the most important patron of art in colonial Mexico.

This painting is one of several in the show by Miguel Cabrera, who is considered to be one of the greatest artists of colonial Mexico.

This work, "The Death of St. Francis Xavier" by Francisco Vallejo, was nearly destroyed in the early 1900s.  The storage space at the National School of Fine Arts was filled to capacity, and there were plans to cull out more than 200 paintings that were considered of little value.  This canvas managed to survive, and ended up in the regional museum in the city of Querétaro.

There are other works that are of secular nature.  This decorative screen, attributed to Miguel Cabrera, gives an idealized view of life among the upper class.

There are portraits of aristocrats, including several Viceroys, the officials appointed by the King of Spain to administer the colony.

Notice the large black circle by the eye of this noble lady.  It is an artificial beauty mark, something that was all the rage with fashionable women of the era.

This work by Miguel Cabrera combines portraiture and religious art.  The young aristocrat is shown with her guardian angel protecting her.

The exhibit contains a number of examples of a rather bizarre genre known as "casta" art.  In the melting pot of the colonial New World, the Spaniards were obsessed with categorizing the myriad racial combinations or "castas".

The daughter of a Spaniard and a mulatta is called a "morisca".

The classifications and the absurd names reached a level of utter ridiculousness.
The child of a Spaniard and an "albina" (Spanish and "morisca") was called a "torna atrás" (which means "turn back").

The child of a Spaniard and a "torna atrás" is called a "tente en el aire" 
(hold yourself in the air).  What the heck??!!

There are also some paintings which show what Mexico City looked like in 17th century.

In this depiction of the main plaza you can see the Viceroy's Palace (today the National Palace) stretching across one side.  To the left is the Cathedral whose bell towers were still not completed.  And in those days before air pollution, the snow-covered peak of the volcano Popocatepetl is clearly visible in the background.

1 comment:

  1. Never saw a beauty mark the size of a Susan B Anthony dollar!