Special Issue "Latin American Art, Visual and Material Culture in the Long Eighteenth Century"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "Visual Arts".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 February 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Lauren Beck
Guest Editor
Canada Research Chair in Intercultural Encounter, Professor of Hispanic Studies and Visual and Material Culture Studies, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick E4L 1C7, Canada
Interests: Early modern visual culture; settler-colonial studies; history of cartography; Empire
Dr. Alena Robin
Guest Editor
Associate Professor, Graduate Chair of Hispanic Studies, Department of Languages and Cultures, Western University, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada
Interests: Spanish American colonial art; New Spain; religious art; heritage protection; Latin American art in Canada

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We invite articles dealing with Latin American art, visual and material culture of the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries. Any aspect of artistic expression, any theoretical or methodological approach, and any geographic region of Latin America will be welcome. Topics include, but are not limited to, workshop practices, art and propaganda, patronage, identity and gender, spirituality and art, mainstream and peripheral relationships, reception and transformation, collecting and exhibition practices, processes of looking and of attracting the gaze, historiographic considerations, and conservation and restoration. We are particularly interested in contributions that spotlight women, Indigenous people, and people of colour, although we will also consider articles that do not focus on these demographics.

We invite contributors to submit their research in English for consideration. Please note that there is a two-stage submission procedure. We will first collect a title and short abstract (maximum 250 words), 5 keywords, and a short bio (150 words), by August 15th, 2020, via email to Dr. Lauren Beck ([email protected]) and Dr. Alena Robin ([email protected]). Before August 30th, we will invite selected abstracts to be submitted as 7,000–9,000 word papers for peer review by February 1st, 2021. Journal publication is expected in mid- to late-2021, depending on the revision time needed after peer review. Each article will be published open access on a rolling basis after successfully passing peer review.

Dr. Lauren Beck
Dr. Alena Robin
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • long eighteenth century
  • Latin America
  • religious art
  • visual and material culture
  • marginalized groups

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

The Retablos of Teabo and Mani, Yucatán: The Evolution of Renaissance Altars in Eighteenth-Century Yucatán

Abstract: In the eighteenth century, Yucatán witnessed an artistic boom, as hundreds of retablos (altarpieces) were constructed and decorated across the peninsula. The altarpieces were created in numerous styles, ranging from variations of Renaissance aesthetics to elaborate Baroque works. Despite the high concentration of production, few of these complex decorative objects have been analyzed. This paper considers the evolution of retablo design though a case study of the three retablos still extant in the towns of Mani and Teabo: the Retablo of St. Anthony of Padua (Mani), the Delores Retablo (Mani), and the Retablo de Las Animas (Teabo). All three retablos were created in the Plateresque style (a version of the Renaissance style popular in sixteenth-century Spain) and adopt similar compositional designs and features, suggesting the works were created by the same workshop. This paper explores the relationships among the retablos by considering their European sources to their eventual creations. Analyses of the retablos’ production does not simply focus on mimicry of European styles, but rather, the essay focuses on the thriving indigenous artistic industry that was developed for a Yucatecan setting. As I argue, these artists worked to expand Yucatan’s visual culture through a lens of colonial Maya artistic traditions.

Keywords: Retablo; renaissance; Teabo; Mani; Yucatán; print


The ‘Good Life’ of Sor Jacinta de Oaxaca: Two Eighteenth-Century Texts on the Ideals of Spiritual Perfection

Abstract: Sor Jacinta de Oaxaca’s funeral sermon was delivered on November 20, 1720 and published shortly thereafter. This brief biographical text provides a chronological account of the nun’s long-suffering and exemplary life from her childhood in Puebla to her good death at the Dominican convent of St. Catherine of Siena in Oaxaca. Reading these biographical publications was encouraged among the religious and the lay societies of New Spain; however, the texts were primarily intended for other nuns so that they could use the life represented in the publication as an example after which they could model their own. Funerary portraits of nuns are rare and served a similar purpose. Convents commissioned these paintings when the religious community wanted to pay homage to the life of an exemplary Bride of Christ who had left a deep imprint upon their abbey. The funerary portrait of Sor Jacinta was therefore a visual testimony of her spiritual perfection, a life ‘well lived’, after which other nuns could model their lives and thus conclude their good earthly lives with the promised mystical reunion with their Divine Husband in heaven. This article will analyze these two representations of Sor Jacinta’s life in order to offer further insight into the ideals cultivated by the religious discourses on the ‘good life’ and the ‘good death’ in New Spain’s eighteenth century, as well as the expected characteristics of spiritual perfection in an exemplary nun. The case of Sor Jacinta’s painting and funeral sermon is a significant contribution to the corpus of biographies of exemplary nuns in New Spain, as few cases have been identified where a written biography and a funerary portrait exist for the same nun.

Keywords: Sor Jacinta de Oaxaca; New Spain; conventual life; good death; crowned nuns


Paintings of Prodigies in Viceregal New Spain: St. Catherine of Alexandria Debating Pagan Philosophers and Other Female Virtuosi

Abstract: This essay examines a unique painting of an unusual subject in viceregal Mexican art, Baltasar de Echave Rioja’s St. Catherine of Alexandria Debating the Pagan Philosophers of 1678 (Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte, oil on canvas, 237 cm × 252.5 cm). Created by one of the leading painters of New Spain, this large canvas of the 18-year old prodigy debating 50 male academics has been little studied. Visual representations of the subject are rare. Depictions of St. Catherine’s mystical marriage or her martyrdom are much better understood. This research addresses how this painting of a teen-aged female virtuoso produced meaning for beholders of the time. What sources did it draw from and how did it produce meaning in relation to other depictions of scholars and academics? This project builds on my recent publications on portrayals of Mexican literary genius and writer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648–1695). Like St. Catherine, as a teenager, Sor Juana was called to a public debate arranged by the viceroy to demonstrate her intellectual prowess. The sixteen-year old emerged victorious, having withstood examination by 40 of Mexico’s leading academics. What can Echave Rioja’s unusual painting and other related images tell us of the lives of female intellectuals and women more generally in viceregal Mexico? What does it reveal about artistic invention? Finally, since St. Catherine’s success in this debate persuaded the pagan philosophers to convert to Christianity, did such scenes play a role in the massive conversion project of colonial Mexico?

Keywords: Baltasar de Echave Rioja; viceregal painting; St. Catherine of Alexandria; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; female prodigies


Served on a Plate: The Engraved ‘Miraculous Lunch’ and the Painting It Inspired for the Franciscans of Santiago de Chile, c. 1710

Abstract: There exists a consensus in the literature in respect to the centrality of printed prototypes for the production of colonial paintings in the Spanish Americas. In the colonial Andes, legal contracts confirm that clients routinely supplied artists with engravings as guides to painted works (Cornejo Bouroncle 1960). The present study leans upon such visual models to identify a cropped canvas in the Pinacoteca Universidad de Concepción, Chile as the missing episode ‘The Miraculous Lunch’ from the cycle on the life of San Diego de Alcalá in Santiago (ca. 1710). By attributing a multi-paneled engraving by Adriaen Collaert as the source for the San Diego series, I recover the fragment’s subject as the moment when Diego catches sight of an unexpected meal during an arduous journey. The cusqueño cycle ‘San Diego de Alcalá’ was commissioned by the Franciscans of Santiago to adorn a missionary school. The status of this series as the most extensive ever produced on the subject of this Franciscan missionary saint dictates that a multiplicity of artistic models was necessary for its production. In addition to recovering a missing scene from this little-known series via the engraving that inspired its production, this study also aims to contribute to emerging literature on the status of the colonial painter as innovator. As demonstrated by the San Diego series, rather than understanding pictorial prototypes as a pejorative attribute of colonial American ‘copyists,’ I view them as pertaining to an early modern creative tradition carried out by painters on both sides of the Atlantic.

Keywords: colonial painting; engravings; San Diego de Alcalá; Santiago de Chile; Cusco


Lady of the House: The Print Publishing Career of Augustina Meza

Abstract: In 1768, the well-to-do criolla Manuela Candia hired a printmaker to engrave and print images of Saint Josaphat that traveled throughout New Spain. Each imprint bore an inscription criticizing Spanish king Charles III, as Candia’s goal was to express her displeasure over the recent expulsion of the Jesuits from the viceroyalty. As scholars have demonstrated, Candia was subsequently investigated and punished by the Holy Office of the Inquisition, forced to admit her error in using the power of the printed image to speak out. This article moves to the other side of the print shop counter in a case study of print publishing and its artists. Based on new documentary evidence and image analysis, the paper presents the life and work of the only known woman printmaker in viceregal New Spain, María Augustina Meza. It traces Meza and her work through two marriages to fellow engravers and a 50-year career as the owner of a printmaking shop in Mexico City. In doing so, the paper places Meza’s print publishing business and its practices within the context of artists’ shops run by women in the mid- to late-eighteenth century. This work therefore simultaneously extends the recognized role of women in printing and broadens our understanding of women within the business of art making in late colonial Mexico City. It furthermore joins the scholarship demonstrating with new empirical research that the lived realities of women in viceregal New Spain were more complex than traditional, stereotypical visions of women’s lives have previously allowed.

Keywords: printmaker; print publishing; woman artist; inquisition; art business


The Mobility of Images: Cult Statues and the (Dis)ordering of Colonial Territory

Abstract: References to images are ubiquitous in the colonial archive. Besides notarial records, which typically provide information regarding the origin of paintings and sculptures, other documents offer a glimpse at the way in which images were put to work by different actors. This article will analyze the use and manipulation of images by indigenous communities in the Real Audiencia de Quito, in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. Cases presented to the high court in Quito suggest that, in the latter decades of the eighteenth century, rural and remote communities developed sophisticated and innovative legal strategies in order to overcome the neglect and inefficiency of colonial justice. Among these strategies were the new meanings ascribed to religious images. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, miraculous images of the Virgin Mary, such as Our Lady of El Cisne and Our Lady of El Quinche, were used by colonial authorities as instruments in the ordering of colonial territory, and as aids in the founding of Indian towns. In the latter decades of the eighteenth century, indigenous communities also put this strategy into practice. As expert litigants, Native actors used cult statues of the Virgin Mary either to legitimize the refounding of towns in new locations, or to resist forceful relocation.

Keywords: Real Audiencia de Quito; cult statues; Indigenous communities; legal strategies; religious images


The Mask of the Church: The Facades of the Andean Hybrid Baroque in a Performative Context

Abstract: The Andean hybrid baroque, long known by the controversial epithet of “mestizo”, has been one of the most studied and debated aspects of the Andean baroque. Despite the interest shown by historiography, it still raises questions. The carved facades with plant, animal, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs, culturally and religiously ambiguous iconography, erected mainly during the eighteenth century in the region of Alto Peru, continue to generate discussion regarding its interpretation. In this article we want to deal with this artistic component from a perspective that takes into account the relationship of these facades with public space and the performing manifestations of public life in the Colonial Andes. We consider the scenographic value of these facades, and the possibility that these iconographic ensembles act as specular representations of viceregal performative manifestations. We pay special attention to one of the motifs that appear in some of these buildings: the masks. The presence of these motifs allows us to examine the facades of the Peruvian baroque in light of the transformative power that the Andean communities attribute to masks used in dances, ceremonies, and other Andean performance contexts. The comparison between mask and facade, as transformative artifacts that limit spaces and bodies (or notions of the interior and exterior), the similarity of the liminal characteristics of both will help us to understand the constant and unfinished negotiation of ambiguous identities that characterized Andean hybrid Baroque facades.

Keywords: Andean hybrid baroque; Alto-Peruvian carved facades; performative art; colonial feasts; masks


Bearing Witness: Martyrs and Onlookers in Mexican Colonial Painting

Abstract: Depictions of martyrs and their torments were a common topic in early modern Europe, especially in the context of the Counter-Reformation. David Freedberg noted how there was a special “taste” for martyrdoms in Antwerp during the last years of the sixteenth century while other scholars have explained their presence as a characteristic of the Baroque in Spain and, consequently, in New Spain. In this paper, I will talk about martyrdom in this modern context and how it was represented in painting. I will focus on the figure of the witness and explain how Alberti referred to these figures in his treatise. Then I will describe how martyrdom was represented in Mexican colonial painting using four examples of two different painters, Francisco de Leon (c. 1640–1700) and Diego de Cuentas (1654–1744), to analyze the use of witnesses in their compositions. I will argue that witnesses were crucial not only to balance the composition as Leon Battista Alberti recommended, but also as an element of the system of “bearing witness”. I will also explain how the different representations of pain in these two sets of paintings correspond to what Javier Moscoso labeled as “culture of contagion” in the seventeenth century and “culture of sympathy” in the eighteenth. Finally, I will describe how these differences also correspond to the stylistic transformation of painting in colonial Mexico at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Keywords: painting; New Spain; Guadalajara; martyrdom; pain


The Mechanisms of Ingenuity in Spanish Colonial Art: An Approximation to the Neogranadine Corpus

Abstract: It is well known that prints were important sources of inspiration for Spanish colonial art. But the art created in the Spanish colonies also departed, sometimes dramatically, from the European woodcuts, etchings, and engravings that inspired it. To describe these departures accurately we have begun to analyze the substantial body of data we have collected in the last fifteen years in the Project for the Engraved Sources of Spanish Colonial Art (PESSCA). The view that is beginning to emerge from this analysis is that the use of prints in the formation of Spanish colonial art was quite diverse, ranging from simply taking impressions from woodblocks and copperplates imported from Europe, to actually coming up with invenzione—truly unprecedented works of art. Somewhere in between, we have found humble reproductions of imported prints, daring translations of prints into other artistic idioms, surprising combinations of two or more prints, apt installations of compositions based on prints, clever adaptations of printed sources to local sensibilities, and major reinterpretations of the content of the print source. Thus we arrive at the recognition that several mechanisms of ingenuity were hard at work in the creation of Spanish colonial art. They were impression, reproduction, translation, installation, combination, adaptation, reinterpretation, and invention. Our analysis of the PESSCA data has been focusing on one geographical area at a time, discerning the effects of our mechanisms of ingenuity on colonial Peruvian, Altoperuvian, Novohispanic, and Quitean art. The purpose of the present paper is to focus on the Neogranadine corpus.

Keywords: colonial art; Nuevo Reino de Granada; prints; invention

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