Bibliography Slide List


Mexican Mannerism?
Additional Images
Iconographic Table
Huejotzingo Contracts
Teposcolula Retablo
Andres de Concha


Apples and Oranges


The Fruits of Mannerism in a New World:

 Retablo Art of the Mexican Evangelization




A Paper Presented to

The Sixteenth Century Studies Conference


Defining the Prosaic Style:

 The Religious Strategies of Mannerism

in the Sixteenth-Century Art


 Mexico and Peru


Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco, California

Saturday Oct 28, 1995




James B. Kiracofe

© 1995


Inter-American Institute

for Advanced Studies in Cultural History

P.O. Box 93, Free Union, Virginia, 22940


All images presented here are owned by Inter-American Institute and James B. Kiracofe. They may be used as they are in the context of this on-line paper without limitation for on-campus educational purposes. However, these images are protected by copyright law and may not be copied or otherwise reproduced by any means for any purpose without written consent of the owners. 

Permission is expressly granted to  Dr. Michael J. Schreffler and any of his students to use these images and to reproduce them for any on-campus, non-commercial, educational purpose related to his classes, including ARTH 338.


[The following is the text as delivered at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco, California, Saturday Oct 28, 1995, with the exception that it has been revised to more accurately identify the disease outbreak of 1576-78. My own original images are included as originally delivered, together with some additional images, including some taken since then in the Cathedral of Seville. Copyrighted images from published sources are referred to here to by citation.]


            In the 22 minutes allotted to me this afternoon I wish simply to call attention to three important points central to the question of Mannerism in sixteenth-century Mexico.[i] Judging from the long list of symposia and papers for this conference, it seems likely that some of you may not be specialists in the field of sixteenth-century easel painting in Mexico. I hasten to add that I am not either, but as a student of the built environment of early colonial Mexico and its role in the transformation of the indigenous sacramental imagination, I have had to consider the relationship of religious devotional art to the overall urban and formal context. What little light I may be able to shed on the often mysterious topic of Mannerism proceeds from my interest in the buildings within which this art occurs. This paper presents a visual overview of the context and a specific examination of a single narrative theme always found in Mexican Retablos mayores of the sixteenth century: The Adoration by the Shepherds. This approach will permit not only a comparative study of two of the best known retablo makers working in sixteenth-century Mexico -- the Sevillian painter Andrés de Concha and the Flemish born portraitist Simón Pereyns; but  it will also show clearly evident connections with a Spanish master of religious painting, Luis de Vargas, who spent many years working with well known Mannerist painters in Italy.

The Three Points  I wish to make are:

I.)            Crisis? What crisis?

            During most of the sixteenth century Spain enjoyed an unprecedented period of Imperial political expansion in the New World as well as the Old. The Sack of Rome, whatever its contribution to the anxt of the Italian courts, did little to subdue the exuberance of the late starting Renaissance in Spain.  From the Indies a tidal wave of gold and silver poured into Seville, making it the largest and richest metropolis in the peninsula. The much discussed crisis that so afflicted Italy --and that, according to some, so shaped the psychology of artistic expression among the Italian Mannerists-- had little, if any, relevance for Spain and her Ultramarine Viceroyalties. Techniques and tastes originating in sixteenth-century Italy did appear in Spanish and Viceregal art as we will presently see, but not as an expression of Italian artists' response to their times and tribulations. Rather, these new Italian characteristics were employed in the service of distinctly Spanish and American agendas. Indeed, if there was a "Crisis" in sixteenth-century Mexico it was the plague of 1576-79, and --at least from the point of view of the religious orders-- the concurrent curtailment of mendicant autonomy by the secular authorities.

II.)            Patronage and audience

            The extremely sophisticated patronage  and  ultra-elite  clerical audience was an all important factor propelling Italian Mannerism: Cardinals, Popes, and dukes paid for a highly refined art of elaborately nuanced meanings encoded in the mannered details often alluding to literary, mythological or religious significance that would not be apparent to the average person. Indeed, this exotic or esoteric layer of meaning was an important element of Mannerism's appeal to the elite patrons.

            But the retablo art of sixteenth-century Mexico had a very different audience, patronage, and purpose. Actually, there were several audiences in sixteenth-century Mexico including a few hundred religious professionals in cathedral chapters, mendicant communities and parish churches;  a few thousand Spanish colonists mostly clustered in the cities of Mexico, Puebla and Antequera; and millions of Indigenous people spread throughout the country. By far, the greatest audience for retablo painting in sixteenth-century Mexico was the indigenous population. The newly Christian native leaders were also the greatest, richest, and most frequent patrons.

            Rather than providing subtle contemplative entertainment for the most sophisticated strata of the Italian intellectual elite, the great majority of sixteenth-century Mexican retablo paintings, purchased with hard cash by the native leadership,  were  intended to edify the newly converted  indigenous masses.  The Mannerists in Italy were mainly producing a rarefied art for a specific audience of high priests and princes whose interest in the mundane expression of the basics of Christian doctrine and dogma was long since exhausted. Instead they sought and patronized an art  that went beyond the already well known to explore ever more exquisite refinements of expression, lavishing carefully mannered attention on ever more obscure themes or interpretations. This was surely an art for the delictation of wealthy connoisseurs. It was an art that took for granted the profound, if not jaded, understanding of Catholic Christian teaching enjoyed by the surfeited princes and prelates with the leisure to reflect upon the accumulated artistic residue of more than a millennium of Christian high culture. But how could such an art be appreciated in a world where the fundamental concepts of Christian teaching were only beginning to be understood after but a few brief decades of evangelization? And this leads to my final question and point:

III.)        Is "Mannerism" an appropriate term for discussing  retablo painting executed for the indigenous audience during  and just after the peak years of the evangelization and church building of the sixteenth-century?

            The sixteenth-century Spanish referred to work in Spain after the style of the Italians as "Romanismo," and while Spanish artists including Luis de Vargas and Alonso de Berruguete did go to Italy and did work with Mannerist masters who were involved with the social issues and intellectual challenges of the Late Italian Renaissance scene, what they brought back to Spain were the techniques and visual preferences if not the underlying anxiety and ideological agenda. Indeed, the social climate, patronage, and audience in Spain, and especially in Seville, were quite different from  those of Florence and Rome.

Luis de Vargas [1506-1567]

Slides 1 & 2:  

Adoration, Sheperds, de Vargas.JPG (52196 bytes) [Click on this and any of the following thumbnails to see full size.]

Left:     Luis de Vargas, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral

Right:  Luis de Vargas, Alegoría de la Inmaculada Concepción, 1561, Seville Cathedral, see published version cited in notes.


            Luis de Vargas (1502-1568) was born and died in Seville, but he spent many years in Italy, perhaps during two separate periods.[ii] There is convincing evidence of his contact with practitioners of the Mannerist style and the maniera including Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Vasari, Salviati and, perhaps above all, Perino del Vaga.[iii] Vargas was working  in Spain by 1555 when he painted the Adoration by the Shepherds in the Seville Cathedral seen here on the left. While maintaining Vargas's original inventiveness, Camón Aznar pointed out the many references to Raphael in this work, and the generally Mannerist tendencies toward canvases crowded with complex, layered groups of figures, robust claroscuro, strong shadows and "coloraciones tostados." Luis de Vargas is generally regarded as one of the leading early transmitters of Italian Mannerism into Spain, as we might conclude from the Alegoría de la Inmaculada Concepción on the right, derived in part from the work of Vasari.[iv]

             Generally, the features of Italian Mannerism brought to Spain included specific techniques, color schemes, and compositional preferences such as  those we see plainly in the crowded, complicated, composition  in  the Alegoría, with its exaggerated, elaborately mannered and contorted postures derived from Vasari. But Vargas in Spain and his follower Concha working  in Mexico, often met quite different objectives with a deliberately uncomplicated, more natural narrative style marked by simplified, easily legible compositional strategies and  realistic color schemes such as we see here on the left in the Adoration by the Shepherds.   Paintings in this  natural, straightforward style were much more common in Spain and perhaps even more so in Mexico than paintings after the fashion of the Italian Mannerists, although examples of both styles  are found in both areas. Should we then call this distinctly different, simplified, direct, uncomplicated narrative style seen here on the left, and often found elsewhere in Spanish and Mexican retablos, as "Mannerist.?"


            Linda Bantel and Marcus Burke have offered another, more accurate designation to the "Counter-Reformation" art responding to the Council of Trent (1545-63). They have referred to it as the "Prosaic Style."[v]  Noting specifically the decrees of the last session condemning the "confusing composition and non -pious art-for-art's-sake attitudes embodied in late mannerism," Burke and Bantel point out the council's insistence on holy images "that are doctrinally correct, decent and decorous, pious, and composed in such a way that they may be clearly understood," demanding further "that the people be instructed and confirmed in the articles of faith ... and be moved to adore and love God and cultivate piety." the emphasis here is on an art that would "inspire the viewer to piety."  They note that the

...quiet, pious, uncomplicated, realistic, audience-involving  way of painting ...may be treated as a separate style in itself. Its simple, didactic, expository nature, like the blunt piety that inspired it, was, to use a literary metaphor, very "prose"-like as opposed to the convoluted "poetry" of late mannerism. We will therefore call this type of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century art the "prosaic style."[vi]


These two paintings by Luis de Vargas provide a clear illustration that indeed there was a separate style employed deliberately when the artist or patron or audience thought it appropriate.[vii]

            Bantel and Marcus have made a useful refinement in introducing this term "Prosaic Style" into our discourse, and in what follows I will offer some visual  evidence in support of their argument.  I also offer some constructive criticism of their chronology. The painting you see here on the left was painted in 1555, and it inspired a series of others in Mexico painted between about 1570 and 1586 to which we will turn in a moment. While Burke and Bantel suggest that the "Prosaic" style did not "become truly innovative until the very end of the sixteenth century,"[viii] I think we can safely say that it was operating in Spain the circle of Luis de Vargas at the time of this painting, or mid-century, and that it was transmitted into New Spain by Andrés de Concha upon his arrival in the Mixteca circa 1570. As we will see,  it flourished thereafter in Concha's work as well as in that of his colleague Simón de Pereyns.  But as we will also see, like Luis de Vargas,  Andrés de Concha could and did work in two styles to satisfy the needs and tastes of two audiences.

Andrés Concha [ to Mexico ca. 1570, died after 1612]

and the Retablo at Yanhuitlán

Slides 3 & 4:  

Yanhuitlan, Long view.jpg (98307 bytes)     Yanhuitlan, Retablo, 2.jpg (145840 bytes)       Yanhuitlan, Retablo.jpg (124286 bytes)    this is a closer view

Left:     View of Convento Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan, March 1995

Right:  Retablo Mayor de Yanhuitlan, Andres de Concha 1570-75, Dec.1991


            Andrés de Concha, a Sevillian retablo painter generally associated with Luis de Vargas, entered a contract in 1568 with Gonzalo de las Casas, encomendero of Yanhuitlán in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca,  to build a retablo in the apse of the Dominican church then under construction there.[ix] It is worth noting that Luis de Vargas died in  December 1567, and if Concha had indeed worked in his atelier, the offer of a major contract in what had become one of the richest areas of New Spain may have come at a most auspicious moment.[x]

Slides 5 & 6  


Yanhuitlan Adoration, Sheperds, 2.jpg (165160 bytes)           Adoration,Sheperds de Vargas, cropped.JPG (25108 bytes)    

Yanhuitlan Sheperds High Res.JPG (43020 bytes)      Adoration,Sheperds de Vargas,  Zoomed,cropped.JPG (256774 bytes)  [These are zoomed versions)

Left:     Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca.1575, Yanhuitlan, April 1995.

Right:  Luis de Vargas, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.


This side by side comparison clearly shows Concha's debt to Vargas.[xi] Concha's composition is even more simplified than Vargas's, but nevertheless skillfully created a realistic scene conveying the reverential attitude of the shepherds in the moment of their arrival. He shows the Christ Child facing us but discretely draped.  Painting for a community as yet only in its second generation of Christian faith, Concha sought to avoid confusion while maintaining the devotional focus on the essentials. Perhaps in consideration of the only recently suppressed native religion's use of ritual sacrifice, animals, offerings or even the animal skin wine-sack slung over the back of Vargas's kneeling shepherd are notably absent. In Concha's painting only Joseph has grey hair, though he appears cheerful, robust, rosy-cheeked, and vigorous. The shepherds too are notably vigorous, and even youthful, fresh faced and muscular in the case of the kneeling shepherd. The hopeful message of the central event of Christian faith, the Nativity of the Savior, is communicated directly and with power.

            All surviving complete sets of  Mexican sixteenth-century retablo narratives include both Adorations by the Shepherds and Adorations by the Three Kings. The omnipresent juxtaposition of these two narrative themes is a distinctly Mexican phenomenon. In sixteenth-century Spanish retablos one or the other may occasionally appear and only exceptionally do they both appear together.[xii] This points again to the differences in the audience,  patronage, and purpose of retablos in the old and New Spain. Spanish retablos of this period, intended for communities well advanced in their understanding of basic Christian doctrine, frequently focused rather on specific events or the lives of specific saints of local significance.

The Retablo at Coixtlahuaca

Slides 7 & 8  



Coixtlahuaca, Facade.JPG (46048 bytes)        Coixtlahuaca, Retablo.JPG (64374 bytes)

Left:           Convento de San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca, ca. 1550-60, facade, April         1995

Right:         Retablo de San Juan Bautista, Coixtlahuaca, ca. 1580 and later April 1995


            At Coixtlahuaca the structure of the existing retablo is a late confection in the Estipite Baroque style but which includes architectural and artistic elements from an earlier mid- sixteenth-century retablo,  such as Plateresque fluted Ionic columns with garlands and monstrous order columns.[xiii]  It is now generally accepted that the paintings at Coixtlahuaca are the work of Andrés de Concha executed sometime after the retablo of Yanhuitlan.[xiv]


Slides 9 & 10  

Coixtlahuaca, Retablo, Lower Left.JPG (61641 bytes)    Coixtlahuaca, Adoration Sheperds.jpg (97566 bytes)    Coixtlahuaca, Adoration, Sheperds, Close-up, High res.jpg (1116565 bytes) This is a full size high resolution version

Left:     Detail of lower left side of Retablo at Coixtlahuaca, April 1995

Right: Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Ap. 1995

Slides 11& 12  


    [ See Tovar de Teresa]                   Adoration_Sheperds_de_Vargas.JPG (52196 bytes)

Left:     Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Photo after Tovar de Teresa. (See published version cited in notes)

Right: Luis de Vargas, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.


As at Yanhuitlan, the theme of the Adoration by the Shepherds is seen juxtaposed to the Adoration by the Three Kings, visually demonstrating the inclusiveness of the new religion, where the significance of human dignity in devotion to Christ is not limited by social station. As at Yanhuitlan, Concha's work was clearly inspired by Vargas, and again, Concha has simplified the model somewhat, including only Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and three shepherds. But this time the shepherds have thinning hair, bony faces and sunken eyes. The one standing next to Mary is grey and almost frail. A balding Joseph is on the periphery, behind the crowd, with his eyes cast down, not looking at us or the Child. This time there are some animals peeking though the crowd, and it is quite clear that the scene is focused on a boy child. An innovation not seen in Vargas's version is the motif of the shepherd removing his hat as he enters the scene. This contributes to a sense of immediacy, if not urgency, while visually reinforcing the awareness of the exalted status of this very special Child with a gesture of reverence well known and understood by the Mixtecs who were the intended audience.[xv]

Slides 13 & 14  


(See above examples for comparison)

Left:      Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1575, Yanhuitlan, April 1995

Right:     Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Ap 1995


Although they are generally similar, the paintings of the Coixtlahuaca retablo are less serene and exhibit more movement, excitement,  and tension than the earlier composition. In Yanhuitlan the shepherds are posed in a stationary group all concentrating on the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph stand quietly side by side also adoring the Child. In Coixtlahuaca everyone is  busy: Mary is holding her cape close, as if seeking protection from the cold, the shepherd next to her, also wrapped protectively in his cloak, holds a candle, Joseph too holds a candle against the dark, another shepherd rushing in removes his hat while a notably hard-bitten shepherd huddles strenuously over the child. Everyone, except the Christ Child, seems anxious. In short, the Coixtlahuaca group is composed of wearier individuals much less at ease than those at Yanhuitlan painted a few years earlier.

A Mexican Crisis: The Plague of 1576-79

            A devastating epidemic swept through the Mixteca Alta between 1576 and 1579 causing a catastrophic population collapse from which many communities have never recovered. Yanhuitlan's 1548 population was 12,207, but in 1629, fifty years after the disaster, it was put at only 400 in the eye-witness account of an observant traveler.[xvi] It is likely that Concha's work at Coixtlahuaca occurred during or not long after this epidemic.[xvii] In the Mixteca he would have been literally surrounded by indigenous people with whom he would have interacted closely in his daily work, not to mention the thousands of others he would have seen but known less intimately. There can be little doubt that watching these intimate associates --and indeed the whole community for whom his work was intended-- wither and melt away amid the horrible suffering inflicted by haemorrhagic fever[xviii] was a profoundly disturbing, heartbreaking emotional and psychological trauma. It is not unreasonable to assume that as a painter of religious, devotional art Concha would have possessed greater than average sensitivity.[xix] Surely during Concha's time in Mexico the plague years of 1576-79  marked the major turning point in the development of colonial society as we can begin to see in these paintings.[xx]

Simón Pereyns: A Flemish Artist in the New World [to Mexico 1566, died 1589]

Slides 15 & 16

Huejotzingo, facade.JPG (73668 bytes)   Huejotzingo, Retablo.JPG (48723 bytes)    Huejotzingo Retablo, High Res.JPG (303693 bytes) 

Left: Convento de San Miguel Huejotzingo, ca. 1545: facade, Feb. 1995

Right: Retablo of San Miguel Huejotzingo, Simón Pereyns, 1586.  Feb. 1995


            The altarpiece of Huejotzingo was executed in 1586 by the Flemish artist Simón Pereyns who inserted a provision in the contracts permitting collaboration by Andrés  Concha.  These two artists had by this time already worked together in Teposcolula and perhaps elsewhere in the Mixteca.[xxi] Pereyns had enjoyed royal patronage in Spain before he arrived in New Spain on 17 September 1566 in the immediate entourage of the new Viceroy Gaston de Peralta.

Slides 17 & 18  

Huejotzingo, Lower Half of retablo.JPG (56795 bytes)    Huejotzingo, Retablo, Bottom highres.jpg (849622 bytes) This is a zoomed version.

Left:     Simón Pereyns, Lower half of Retablo, 1586, Huejotzingo, March 1995

Right:  Simón Pereyns,  Adoration by the Shepherds, 1586, Huejotzingo, Photo after Tovar de Teresa [see published version cited in notes]


Slides 19 & 20

Left:     Simón Pereyns,  Adoration by the Shepards, 1586, Huejotzingo,

Right:  Luis de Vargas, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.  

[see published versions cited in notes]


Simón Pereyns, a portrait painter in Spain,  seems not to have received training in religious art prior to arriving in New Spain. Thus he often relied on visual aids for iconographic models,  including etchings and prints of European paintings that circulated in Mexico.[xxii] But in this case he may have used materials furnished by Concha, perhaps a sketch or print of Vargas's Adoration. Certainly Pereyns's composition here  including the angels on the clouds above, follows Vargas's example more closely in some ways than Concha's work.  Nevertheless, Pereyns also added some of his own touches including the tiny angels around the Christ Child, who is again discretely draped. Unlike Concha's more simplified, realistic examples, Pereyns here painted a scene with supernatural beings -- the angels-- sharing space with the Holy Family and the shepherds.



            By 1586 the native community at Huejotzingo may have been more advanced in their understanding of Christian dogma and art  than Concha's first audience at Yanhuitlan in 1570. Indeed indigenous contact with the Spanish was more frequent at an earlier date in Huejotzingo than in the Mixteca Alta,  thus the evangelization was organized and became effective at an earlier date in Huejotzingo. Furthermore, the Huejotzingo retablo was painted about fifteen years after Concha's work at Yanhuitlan. These conditions may have permitted Pereyns greater artistic liberty here than Concha enjoyed at Yanhuitlan.



Slides 21 & 22


Left:             Andrés de Concha, Santa Cecilia, 16th C. Pinocoteca Virreinal, after Tovar de Teresa [see published version cited in notes]


Right:            Andrés de Concha, Adoration by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Yanhuitlan, April 1995 [see above examples]


            I will conclude with these two paintings by Andrés de Concha to demonstrate that he was able to paint in two quite different styles to suit the needs and tastes of different audiences. On the left is his Santa Cecilia, now in the Pinocoteca Virreinal de San Diego. This elegant and sophisticated piece has been praised as among the finest examples of Mannerism produced by a Spanish artist.[xxiii] Rather than a deliberately realistic, "prose"-like narrative for the edification of Christian Mixtecs newly evangelized, this "poetic"-allegory was painted for the Church of the Augustinians in the metropolitan center, Mexico City. These two quite different styles painted by the same hand,  are nevertheless both the fruits of Mannerism in a new world.   


[i] The field research for this paper was made possible by a generous fellowship awarded to me by the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies from funds provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation in support of my dissertation research investigating urban planning in early colonial Teposcolula, Oaxaca. I would also like to acknowledge the kindness of Rich Phillips in suggesting the topic of Mannerism in Mexico to me and for generously making available to me various articles and manuscripts of his own and others. Juan I. Bustamante Vasconcelos kindly intervened on my behalf with the Oaxaca  office of INAH to obtain for me the necessary permits for on-site study and photography, I owe my photographs here to his generosity. Sam Edgerton not only provided the transportation from Oaxaca out to Yanhuitlan and Coixtlahuaca, but many hours of highly informative discussion of various topics related to Italian Renaissance painting.


[ii] Camón Aznar, José. Summa Artis, historia general del arte, Vol XXIV: La Pintura Española del siglo XVI. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, S.A., 1970, pp. 402-403. Brown, Jonathan. The Golden Age of Spanish Painting. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 47-48.


[iii] For a comprehensive discussion of these artists within a broader context see: Freedburg, S. J. Painting in Italy, 1500-1600. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.


[iv] Valdivieso, Enrique. Historia de la Pintura Sevillana, siglos XIII al XX. Sevilla: Ediciones Guadalquivir, 1992, p.  78. Valdevieso gives the most complete, detailed biographical sketch of Vargas found in the sources cited here.


[v] Bantel, Linda,  and Marcus Burke. Spain and New Spain Mexican Colonial Arts in their European Contexts., exh. cat., Corpus Christi: Art Museum of South Texas, 1979, 21 & 22.   Note that elsewhere Burke uses the term "Counter-Reformation/Prosaic Reform style" to characterize the period in which the reforms of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) were implemented following what the Council perceived as the excesses of Central Italian Mannerism then fashionable. See Burke, Marcus. "Mexican Painting of the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation (1550-1650)." in Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries of Art. New York: Bullfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1990, pp. 286-288.


[vi] Bantel and Burke. Spain and New Spain... , this and the preceding quotations appear on pages 21 & 22.


[vii] The notion that an artist could actively participate in two quite different styles at the same time comes as no surprise to anyone who has studied the architectural history of sixteenth-century Spain where masons often alternately worked on different concurrent projects,  in the Gothic style on one job and on another in the Plateresque style, or "a lo Romano" as the early Renaissance style was called in Spain.


[viii] Bantel and Burke. Spain and New Spain... , pp. 21- 22.


[ix] Marcus Burke also states that Concha "may have trained under the Hispano-Netherlandish painter Pedro de Campaña [Pieter Kempeneer]. See Burke, "Mexican Painting..."  p. 295. Pedro de Campaña and Luis de Vargas worked together in 1555 on the retablo of the Purification of the Virgin. Jonathan Brown suggests that Kempeneer learned much from Vargas about Italian Mannerism and offers a side by side comparison of the Purification of the Virgin and Vargas's Allegory of the Immaculate Conception. See: Brown, Jonathan. The Golden Age of Spanish Painting. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 46-49.


[x] Valdivieso states that Vargas died in December 1567, see: Valdivieso. Historia de la Pintura... . p. 78. Guillermo Tovar de Teresa, among others including Angulo Iñiguez, has suggeted the possibility that Concha trained in Vargas's atelier, see Tovar de Teresa. Guillermo. Pintura y escultura en Nueva España 1557-1640. México: Grupo Azabache, 1992, p. 83.


[xi] The narrative paintings in this retablo are accepted as Concha's work. However, Toussaint felt that the rest of the retablo was of seventeenth-century construction. See: Toussaint. Pintura. pp. 69-70. If the rest of the retablo we see here is largely Concha's work, then the original columns have been replaced with Salamonic columns of a later era. See: Mullen, Robert James. Dominican Architecture in Sixteenth- Century Oaxaca. Phoenix: Arizona State University, 1975, p. 139:

 "Martín Soria dates Yanhuitlán's retable by Andrés de la Concha as `c. 1568-70,' noting that Concha was under contract for two years to Gonzalo de las Casas, the encomendero of Yanhuitlán."

Mullen claimed on this basis that the apse of Yanhuitlán's church must have been complete by 1570. Mullen's endnote 12 cites Kubler, George,  and Martín Soria. Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and their American Dominions, 1500-1800. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1959., pp. 306, 392 (note 24).

 "Soria obtained the information of Concha from Don Celestino López Martínez who found it among unpublished documents in the Archivo de Protocolos, Seville. Soria also claims (p. 371) the original columns of the retablo have been replaced by spiral ones."

But see Tovar de Teresa, Pintura..., for another, more recent interpretation placing the installation of the retablo slightly later. Photographs of the retablo are published in Weisman,  Elizabeth Wilder. Art and Time in Mexico. New York: Harper & Roe, 1985 p. 183, pl. 202. [general view of apse including retablo];  Toussaint, Manuel. Pintura Colonial en México. México: UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, 1990., pl. 99 [close-up of central portion]. See also: Porter, Eliot, and Ellen Auerbach. Mexican Churches. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987, plate 64.

                A document in México mentions the construction of a sumptuous retablo in Yanhuitlan in 1579::

                 "Licencia a los de Yanguitlan para cortar en los montes de Tlaxiaco y Tamazula: ...Por cuanto los naturales del pueblo de Yanguitlan me han hecho relación que ellos quierron hacer un retablo suntuoso para la iglesia del dicho pueblo, y que por no haber madera en sus términos que sea a tal..."

See: Spores,  Ronald. Coleccion de Documentos del Archivo General de la Nación para la Etnohistoria de la Mixteca de Oaxaca en el siglo XVI. Nashville: Vanderbilt University, Publications in Anthropology No. 41, 1992, p. 66, item 139: 1579.


[xii] See tabulation of narrative themes in surviving sixteenth-century Mexican retablos appended to the text here and for comparison see: Palomero Páramo, Jesús Miguel. El retablo Sevillano del Renacimiento: analysis y evolucion (1560-1629). Seville: Excma. Diputación Provincial de Sevilla, 1983.


[xiii] In the sacristy is a large candelabra made of what appear to have been columns from the original sixteenth-century retablo. Perhaps these were left-overs from the baroque era make-over.


[xiv] Toussaint noted that the paintings in the retablo of Coixtlahuaca were said to be by Concha but later than those of Yanhuitlán which apparently influenced the work at Coixtlahuaca. See: Toussaint. Pintura . p. 59. See also: Tovar de Teresa, Pintura y escultura... .


[xv] An example of the importance of this gesture may be seen even today in the rigorously observed custom of removing hats while in the presence of members of the Alcaldia in the Palacios Municipales of even the humblest towns. In August, 1993, I was elbowed emphatically in the ribs as I was about to replace my hat before having completely exited the Presidencia of San Juan Teposcolula by a friend anxious to prevent me from committing an offensive and potentially grave  breach of etiquette. In the Mixteca and others rural areas of Mexico it is quite common, even in the bright, hot sun, to see men remove their hats as an expression of deference when speaking in the street with local officials or other respected individuals.

                It is worth noting that the much rebuilt retablo of Tamazulapan, originally executed by Andrés de Concha, also has an Adoration by the Shepherds quite similar to that of Coixtlahuaca, including the shepherd removing his hat. The painting is now in the second cuerpo on the left, too high for close inspection or photo-documentation without scaffolding. In 1587 Andrés Concha, referred to as "pintor del monasterio e iglesia de Tamasulapam" entered a contract with the people of Tamazulapan for work on a Retablo, and this painting appears to be his work. [ for a transcription of this contract, now preserved in the Archivo del Poder Judicial de Oaxaca,  see: Romero, Maria de los Angeles."Mas ha de este retablo." Estudios de antropología e historia. Mexico City, 1978.] If the painting at Tamazulapan is indeed Concha's work and not a later copy of the painting at Coixtlahuaca,  then a  close comparative study of this painting with the others in the series  patterned after Vargas's original in the Seville Cathedral might shed more light on the date of the retablo at Coixtlahuaca, which Tovar de Teresa dates at 1575. If it is a copy,  then it might still tell us something about a "school of Andrés de Concha" and help us identify other work by his followers or apprentices.


[xvi]  For a tabulation of the Census of the Mixteca Alta, 1547-48 see: Spores, Ronald. The Mixtecs in Ancient and Colonial Times. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984, p. 105. For an eye-witness description of Yanhuitlan in 1628 see:  C. A. Romero, "Dos Cartas inéditas del P. Bernabé Cobo, " Instituto histórico del Perú, Lima, Revista histórica, tomo VIII-entregas I-III (1925), 26-50, p. 35.


[xvii] The creation of a retablo mayor was a complex enterprise requiring the work of many trained individuals orchestrated by the master. Concha is known to have taken local apprentices, and he surely employed many native helpers supplied by the local authorities.  See the "1580 Concierto entre Andrés de Concha y Diego de Montesinos" in Romero. . "Mas ha de este retablo," for an example of his taking local apprentices. For an example of how retablo contracts were structured to provide services of an array of native workers see also: Berlin: Heinrich. "The High Alter at  Huejotzingo." The Americas XV (July 1958). This is a typescript transcription of Simón Pereyns's contract in which he provides that Andrés de Concha may assist him in the painting.


[xviii] For a discussion of this epidemic and its causes see: Marr, John S. and James B. Kiracofe. "Was the Huey Cocoliztli a Haemorrhagic Fever?." Medical History, 2000, 44: 341-362.


[xix] Especially if he was indeed the student of Luis de Vargas who was regarded as exceptionally pious, even saintly, in his own time. See: Angulo Iñíguez, Diego. Ars Hispaniae, Hisoria universal del arte Hispánico, volumén Décimosegungo: Pintura del Renacimiento. Madrid: Editorial Plus Ultra, 1950, p. 211.


[xx] I propose  further investigation of possible changes in retablo art in the aftermath of the terrible epidemic as an important avenue of research. Along these lines see also: Meiss, Millard.  Painting in Siena and Florence After the Black Death: the arts, religion and society in the mid-fourteenth century. New York: Harper and Row, 1964. See especially Chapter III: Guilt, Penance, and Religious Rapture, which offers some insights useful in analyzing paintings such as Concha's Coixtlahuaca Adoration by the Shepherds. On page 86 Meiss noted " It is also true that the devotion of all the leaders of the time [after the Black Death], in Siena as well as Florence, was  distinguished by strenuousness, excitement, and a sense of urgency." Later, on page 93, he added that "The plague joined by the other disturbances, tended in fact to polarize society toward strenuous religiosity on the one hand and a moral and religious dissidence on the other." Richard Kagan and Sam Edgerton, among others, have pointed out in conversation the well known problems with Meiss's book. While some of the evidence he argued from proved erroneous, and while the economic scenario he suggested proved incorrect, there remains little doubt that the Black Death left in its wake a profound psychological impact on those who survived, including the artists.  Estimates of mortality in the European epidemic vary, and some locations suffered more severely than others, and as critics of Meiss have pointed out, those who survived were often able to turn the demographic collapse to financial advantage. But it seems that the  astonishing virulence of European and/or African microbes infecting an indigenous American population entirely without immunity during the 1576-79 epidemic in the Mixteca Alta produced a demographic catastrophe and collapse beyond anything experienced in Europe during the Black Plague. Further study will permit a more precise comparative analysis, but for the moment it seems safe to assume that a commensurately greater psychological and spiritual shock could reasonably be expected in someone, like Andrés de Concha, who witnessed the disaster in the Mixteca and its aftermath.  Certainly there was no economic resurgence in the Mixteca Alta as there was in Renaissance Europe. Indeed the extremely lucrative silk industry collapsed completely, never to be revived, and the economy of the Mixteca generally declined precipitously from being one of the most prosperous regions of the Spanish Empire to an economic backwater as it has remained to this day.


[xxi] Moreover, they had married related women:Tovar de Teresa.  Pintura y escultura... . pp. 34-35 :"unidos por el oficio primero, pero relacionadas familiarmente ya que sus respectivas esposas eran parientes." He gives no footnote for his source. Later he stated that Pereyns married in 1569 Franciscan de Medina, cousin of María San Martín, wife of Concha. (p. 71) See also:  Indice del Microfilm del Centro Regional de Oaxaca, Series Teposcolula, 1975. Studios de Anthropology e Historia No. 8, Centra de Oaxaca. Instituto National de Anthropology E Historia. 1978, Doc. 204. Carta de poder otorgada por María de San Martín mujer legítima de Andrés de Concha... 1 f. That the world of European religious painters was a small and tightly interwoven group of competing clans is further suggested by the fact that the pintor Francisco de Morales and the dorador Juan de la Torre were related, the former being the latter's father in law, as Tovar de Teresa points out on P. 51. He gives other similar examples.

                For biographical information on Pereyns, see: Grajales, Gloria. "Simón Pereyns. Su vida y su Obra." in Homanaje a Rafael Garcia Granados. México: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1960, pp. 206-216. Toussaint, Manuel."Proceso y denuncias contra Simón Pereyns en la Inquisición de México," Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, México, suplemento al No. 2, 1938, ______. "Tres Pintores del Siglo XVI. Nuevos datos sobre Andrés de Concha, Francisco de Zumaya y Simón Pereyns," Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, México, 9, and a more recent synthesis in ________.  Pintura . See also  Burke, "Mexican Painting..;" Tovar de Teresa, Pintura y escultura... ; and other related titles in the attached bibliography.


[xxii] See for example: Manrique, Jorge Alberto. "La estampa como fuente del arte en la Nueva España."  Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas  Vol.13,   50(1982): 55-60.


[xxiii] Tovar de Teresa Pintura y escultura ..., p. 88.