Fruits of Mannerism in a New World:
Art of the Mexican Evangelization
Paper Presented to
Sixteenth Century Studies Conference
the Prosaic Style:
The Religious Strategies of Mannerism
the Sixteenth-Century Art
Mexico and Peru
Hill Hotel, San Francisco, California
Oct 28, 1995
Advanced Studies in Cultural History
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.
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.]
, 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
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.
Three Points I wish to make are:
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
Patronage and audience
The extremely sophisticated patronage
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:
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
Luis de Vargas [1506-1567]
Left: Luis de Vargas, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral
Luis de Vargas, Alegoría de la Inmaculada
Concepción, 1561, Seville Cathedral,
see published version cited in notes.
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
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.?"
THE PROSAIC STYLE DEFINED
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
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
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:
Left: View of Convento Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan, March
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
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
de Concha, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca.1575, Yanhuitlan, April 1995.
Right: Luis de Vargas, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.
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
Left: Convento de San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca, ca. 1550-60, facade, April
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
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
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
de Concha, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Photo after Tovar de Teresa.
(See published version cited in notes)
(See published version cited in notes)
Right: Luis de Vargas, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.
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
Slides 13 & 14
(See above examples for comparison)
de Concha, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1575, Yanhuitlan, April 1995
de Concha, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1580, Coixtlahuaca, Ap 1995
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
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
Slides 17 & 18
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]
[see published version cited in notes]
Slides 19 & 20
Left: Simón Pereyns,
by the Shepards, 1586, Huejotzingo,
Right: Luis de Vargas, Adoration
by the Shepherds, ca. 1555, Seville Cathedral.
[see published versions cited in notes]
Slides 21 & 22
[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..."
[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.
See for example: Manrique,
Jorge Alberto. "La estampa como fuente del arte en
la Nueva España." Anales
del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas
[xxiii] Tovar de Teresa Pintura y escultura ..., p. 88.