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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Painting Power: Images of Ecclesiastical Authority in Seventeenth-Century New Spain
by Leyva-Gutierrez, Niria E., Ph.D., New York University, 2012, 360; 3502773
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the Catholic church's program of image-making in seventeenth-century New Spain as part of a campaign by its bishops to strengthen their hierarchy, claim spiritual hegemony over colonial subjects, and consolidate their power in the contested political terrain of the early colony. Chapter one charts the complicated politics that defined the church in New Spain and gave rise to a protracted conflict between the regular and secular clergies. In particular, the chapter analyzes the emergence of the sixteenth-century archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras as the enduring model of the New Tridentine bishop and how his reforms led to greater control by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The second chapter investigates how Moya's legacy was championed in the following century by Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, a defender of ecclesiastical privilege and an impressive patron of the arts. This chapter examines Palafox's role in the construction and decoration of Puebla's cathedral and his commitment to the iconography of ecclesiastical triumph and militancy; Palafox's formula would be replicated by subsequent bishops. Chapter three presents new analyses of the images of the Archangel Michael as the most iconic image of ascendant ecclesiastical power. The popularity of St. Michael soared in the seventeenth century thanks to the bishops' invigoration of his cult and possession of his image as an iconographical proxy for their political aspirations. The study's final chapter focuses on the bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz, and his commission of Cristóbal de Villalpando's painting of the Transfiguration, which at once serves as Santa Cruz's personal visual manifesto of ecclesiastical supremacy and as a triumphant pictorial culmination of the century's bishops and their notions of power, privilege, and rightful rule.

The thorny religio-politics of seventeenth-century New Spain generated some of the most iconographically-complex and ambitious paintings of the colonial period. This study frames the analyses of these elaborate pictorial programs within the history of the church in the seventeenth century, an important period overlooked in the literature. The body of ecclesiastical imagery of this period functioned as pictorial catechisms that triumphantly illustrated the primacy of the bishops in New Spain.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Jonathan, Sullivan, Edward J.
Commitee: Russo, Alessandra
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Art history
Keywords: Bishops, Catholic Church, Mexico, New Spain, Puebla, Religious paintings
Publication Number: 3502773
ISBN: 978-1-267-26079-6
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