Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Portraiture in New Spain, 1600-1800: Painters, Patrons and Politics in Viceregal Mexico
by Brown, Michael A., Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 327; 3445271
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation charts some of the most significant events for the development of portrait-painting in New Spain in order to shed light on a problematic genre that is often overlooked or misunderstood, even by scholars in the field. The first chapter examines the corporate portrait in early seventeenth-century Mexico City, specifically the series of canvases depicting archbishops in the cathedral chapter hall, and the role of the painter as an arbiter of taste. The second chapter investigates the persistence of this established model, which was a narrowly constructed and exclusively male tradition, which lasted a century and a half. The third chapter discusses the extraordinary innovations of the early eighteenth century. As a result of many factors, including profound economic and social changes, there began an explosion of portrait commissions after 1700, especially in the previously ignored spheres of women and family. The final chapter deals with the foundation of the Academy in Mexico and its role in the Bourbon effort to retain control over its dominion by re-imposing artistic taste in the colony. One of the strategies employed to this end was the importation of a generation of Spanish artists trained at the Academy in Madrid.

Portraiture in the viceroyalties, like the court culture of its government seats in Mexico City and Lima, was inherently conservative, concerned as it was with the shaky balance of power that defined colonial politics and society. Once the formula of state portraiture was established in New Spain, it remained fairly uniform because of the inherent demands of such patrons. The first portrait commissions were for series of statesmen; later depictions needed to comply with and consolidate this corporate template. In this way, portraiture in New Spain developed differently than it had in Europe because its tradition was so firmly rooted in the series of viceroys and prelates. Instead of developing along the art-historical arc that characterizes many parts of Europe, portraiture in New Spain followed a different course.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Jonathan
Commitee: Nagel, Alexander, Sullivan, Edward J.
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American history, Art history
Keywords: Colonial, Mexico, Painting, Portrait, Portraiture
Publication Number: 3445271
ISBN: 9781124544236
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