Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825

Jorge F. Rivas-Pérez

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825

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The origins of what we now denominate “Spanish colonial decorative arts” can be traced back to the last decade of the 15th century, when Spanish craft uses and customs were transplanted to the New World. The development of arts and crafts in Spanish America presents a special case within the context of the Americas. Among the most-distinctive aspects of the development of Spanish colonial decorative arts is the impact of local pre-Columbian craft traditions. In no other American colonies would native traditions come to play as essential a role as they would in those territories controlled by the Spanish Crown. The creation of new and original artistic traditions with their own specific decorative vocabulary, distinguished from both Iberian and Native American precedents, took several centuries and many generations of craftsmen to fully evolve and flourish. By the third decade of the 19th century most Latin American territories had gained independence from the Spanish Crown. The emancipation process, in most regions accompanied by civil wars followed by dramatic economic and social upheaval, deeply transformed the productive structures and in many cases put an end to more than three centuries of craft production rooted in the Spanish tradition. The nationalistic context in which most of the scholarly research has been conducted since the late 19th century fails to authentically reflect the original conditions of artistic production in the colonial era. Spanish territories were organized rather differently than present-day Latin American nations; production, trade, and consumption of goods were developed in accordance with this former geopolitical organization. To fully understand the phenomenon of Spanish American decorative arts, it is imperative to be aware of the original organization of the colonial territories and to expand the study frame to include the Philippines—which was then under the jurisdiction of New Spain. It is also important to note the variety of terms used to denote the Spanish Colonial period in the specialized literature. The general and ubiquitous “colonial,” the more geopolitically exclusive “viceregal” (notably applied to Mexico and Peru), and the sometimes misleading—due to prevailing durability in postcolonial cultural semantics—“Hispanic,” e.g., “del período hispánico,” are all in customary usage. With an emphasis on late-20th- and early-21st-century scholarship, and with the exclusion of research devoted to architecture, painting, and sculpture, this bibliography encompasses the examination of principal expressions of Spanish American arts and crafts produced between the 1490s and 1820s. The reviewed publications are in Spanish, unless otherwise specified.

Article.  10861 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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