Divine Illusions: Statue Paintings from Colonial South America

   January 18 – May 16, 2020
   Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame

Unidentified artist, Cuzco, Perú, Saint Michael the Archangel, 18th century, oil on canvas.

Artists Included:
Art of the Spanish Americas

In eighteenth-century Spanish America, sculpted images of the Virgin Mary were frequent subjects of paintings. Some of these “statue paintings” depicted sculptures famed for miraculous intercession in medieval Spain. Others captured the likenesses of statues originating in the Americas and similarly celebrated for their divine intervention. Like the statues they portrayed, the paintings, too, were understood to be imbued with sacredness and were objects of devotion in their own right.

Drawn from the extraordinary holdings of the internationally renowned Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, this exhibition focuses on statue paintings of the Virgin from the Viceroyalty of Peru, a part of the Spanish Empire encompassing much of Andean South America. It centers particularly on works produced in Cuzco (Peru) and artistic centers in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca and explores the European and American dimensions of the phenomenon, iconographic variations in the genre, and what these works of art reveal about sacred imagery and its operation in Spanish colonial South America. The identities of the painters and patrons of these works remain largely unknown, but certainly some of them were native Andeans.

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