Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spanish Colonial Art in Denver

A trip to Denver last week provided some interesting Spanish material. The Denver Art Museum has a truly fine collection of Spanish Colonial Art, beginning in the 16th century and going all the way through to modern makers of “bultos” [statues] of “santos” in New Mexico. It is well displayed and well-curated; the information is factual and does not engage in editorial remarks on the evils of the Catholic Church, Spanish colonization, etc., which are all part of the Leyenda Negra that circulates in US academic environments.

The Spanish colonies of Mexico City, Quito and Lima, to name some particularly important ones, were busy, sophisticated cities and their residents demanded high-quality works of art for their homes and churches. Spanish artists set up workshops in these cities, training native craftsmen in European techniques. The quality was so high that there was actually an export market, with religious statuary and painting being brought into the mother country, Spain.


Here is a classic Adoration of the Shepherds, done in the 17th century by the artist Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez in Mexico. The museum’s website has a few other glimpses of items in their remarkable collection.