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Friday, June 1 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Paintings) Old World, New World: Painting Practices in the Reformed 1686 Painter’s Guild of Mexico City

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In 1911, Emily Johnston de Forest, daughter of the founding president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Taylor Johnston, donated her vast collection of tin-glazed earthenware to encourage the creation of a permanent display showcasing the artistic grandeur of colonial Mexican art. Despite her efforts, de Forest’s vision was not realized until 2013, when the Museum appointed a curator of Colonial Latin American Art. Since then, the Museum has organized exhibitions and acquired artworks from New Spain. For more than three hundred years this Spanish kingdom encompassed modern-day Central America up to the western half of the United States, as well as the Philippines. The Museum’s newly focused interest in the artistic output of this territory prompted the technical examination of two paintings, one by Cristóbal de Villalpando (ca. 1649-1714) and the other by José Sánchez (active 1686-95). From 1686 to 1688, these artists worked closely in the Painter’s Guild of Mexico City, scrutinizing the works of many young aspiring artists. In this capacity, they were responsible for shaping Mexican artistic practices well into the 18th century.

Cristóbal de Villalpando, the most productive painter of the New Spanish Baroque, developed an individual aesthetic that distinguished him from his contemporaries. The technical study of his Adoration of the Magi (1683) was carried out for a monographic exhibition on the artist that took place at the Metropolitan from July 25 to October 15, 2017. Unpublished and unknown to scholars, The Adoration has been in the collection of Fordham University since the mid-19th century, and has only recently been included into the artist’s oeuvre. The Marriage of the Virgin (ca. 1690) by José Sánchez was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 2016. It is one scene from a series depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, a subject frequently explored by painters in Spanish America. The paintings were created within a span of ten years, during which these artists served two years together as Guild examiners.

The results of our findings will be discussed in both regional and international contexts and will reveal the close connections and differences between preparation practices in Spain and its transatlantic territories. Of particular interest is the identification of ash in the ground layers of both paintings. This type of preparation is described by Francisco Pacheco in his 1649 treatise and has been identified in paintings of artists practicing in Madrid. This study presents material evidence that Mexican artists were following Madrilenian traditions, which had most likely been passed down through the Spanish painters that arrived in New Spain from the motherland.

This study comes at a propitious time. Art historical attention to New Spain has increased in the last decades but technical studies that contextualize the unique qualities of these important paintings are limited. Focusing attention on the individual contributions of New Spanish artists is essential to increase awareness of their artistic production, and create a body of knowledge about their material practices. 

Authors in Publication Order: José Luis Lazarte Luna, Dorothy Mahon, Silvia Centeno, Federico Caró, Louisa Smieska

avatar for José Luis Lazarte Luna

José Luis Lazarte Luna

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Paintings Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Department of Paintings Conservation
José Luis Lazarte Luna obtained a Master of Science degree from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation with a specialization in paintings. He is completing his second year as a fellow in the Department of Paintings Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum... Read More →

avatar for Federico Carò

Federico Carò

Associate Research Scientist, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Scientific Research
Federico Carò received his PhD in Earth Science from the University of Pavia, Italy, where he worked on the characterization of natural and artificial building materials for conservation purposes. Since joining the staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art he has investigated inorganic... Read More →
avatar for Silvia Centeno

Silvia Centeno

Research Scientist, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Scientific Research
Silvia A. Centeno is currently a Research Scientist in Department of Scientific Research (DSR) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), in New York, where her main responsibilities include the investigation of the material aspects of works of art, with a focus on paintings, works... Read More →
avatar for Dorothy Mahon

Dorothy Mahon

Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fairchild Center for Paintings Conservation
Dorothy Mahon, Conservator, received her MA in the history of art and a certificate of advanced study in conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She was appointed to the staff in 1981 and has conserved paintings spanning the collection, with emphasis on... Read More →
avatar for Louisa Smieska

Louisa Smieska

Andrew W. Mellon Senior Fellow, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Scientific Research
Louisa Smieska received her PhD in Materials Chemistry from Cornell University in 2015 and then pursued postdoctoral research at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), where she developed expertise in scanning X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and the corresponding data analysis. Her... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 9:30am - 10:00am MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston
  6. Specialty Session, Paintings