Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reverence Renewed - DePaul's Museum Presents Early Religious Images from Peru

Unidentified artist, Our Lady of Cayma, Peru, c. 1771-1782, oil on canvas

Having grown up in a religious Catholic household, I was familiar with the religious icons of Western Europe. While the images were beautiful and often frightening, they were very European in style. The exhibition Reverence Renewed at the Depaul University Museum displays religious icons from the 1700s in Peru and South America. The beauty of these images is darker and depict a mysteriousness that is a profound look into the Peruvian temperment of the late Baroque and beginning of the Rococo period. They attempt to copy the style of the European painting of the time, but the emotional content of the work is very uniquely South American. Reverence Renewed is an amazing interpretation of religious painting in a land far away from Rome, at a time when the Roman Catholic church was the dominant political and religious force in the world. This is a fantastic show.

Unidentified workshop St. Michael Archangel Peru, Cuzco, late 17th-early 18th century Oil on canvas

The invasion of the Incan Empire by Spanish forces in the 1530s marked a defining moment in Andean history and art. Visual culture in the newly-established Viceroyalty of Peru (present-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and more) was modeled to some degree on the art and architecture of Italy, Spain, and Flanders. Yet South American artworks were products of their colonial environment, indeed often made by indigenous and mestizo (mixed-blooded) artists and informed by their own cultural circumstances and the demands of their local patrons.

Unidentified Workshop, Ship of Patience, Peru, Cozco 18th century, oil on canvas

This exhibition focuses on three distinctive characteristics of painting in the Andean region: the popularity of the Virgin Mary as icon and image; the artists and their stylistic inspirations, particularly in the artistic center of Cuzco; and the emergence of a distinctive representational repertoire drawn from European tradition but elaborated in fresh and unpredictable ways. Works from this fluid environment include historical narratives of Spanish power, secular portraits, extraordinary silverwork, and above all, Catholic imagery-renewed in its Andean environment.

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