Published: June 20, 2006
For more than four centuries, the vast wealth and power of Spain were direct results of its domination over large parts of the Americas. In their conquest of the New World, the Spaniards were interested in both gold to fill their treasury and the baptism of souls for the glory of God. Art was highly useful in conveying the church’s doctrine and gospel, and early missionaries frequently used artists to provide the visual language they needed in their work of conversion.
Foreign artists dominated the New World during the early years of the conquest, but by the middle of the Seventeenth century, native talents supplanted that of imported artists. Indigenous traditions and traces of preconquest characteristics were incorporated into many Christians’ artworks, imbuing them with a distinctive quality. Pre-Columbian and European styles fused into what is now called the Spanish Colonial style.
Organized by The Mint Museums, paintings, sculptures, silver and furniture from the late Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Century make up “Spanish Colonial Art from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection.” On view through September 10, selections in this special exhibition of Spanish Colonial art include works from the collection of Dr and Mrs Francis Robicsek of Charlotte, which have never been publicly displayed.
“Madonna and Christ Child,” “Christ Child with Symbols of the Passion” and “Saint John the Baptist,” all from Peru, are just a few of the 17 oil on cloth paintings shown in the exhibition. “Saint Francis Penitent” from Mexico, “Saint Christopher and the Christ Child” from Peru and “Archangel Raphael” from Ecuador are just a taste of the 15 oil on canvas paintings.
Sculptures and statues in the exhibition include many well-known subjects with a rich history behind each one. “Immaculate Conception” from Mexico was created in the late Eighteenth Century. The Virgin Mary, considered free of all sin and known as the Immaculate Conception, was declared patroness of all Spanish territories in the Americas in 1760. “Pope Saint Gregory the Great” from Guatemala was also created in the late Eighteenth Century. In this statue, Pope Saint Gregory the Great wears the papal tiara and holds the papal staff, or crosier. He is known for reform of the liturgy of the church and established a style of chant known as Gregorian chant.
Along with these pieces, “Saint Michael Archangel Triumphant” from Mexico, “Savior of the World” from the Philippine Islands and “Saint John the Baptist” from Mexico are a few other statues that stand side by side.
The Mint Museums have been able to collect furniture, silver and other items from this time period. The array of furniture includes altars and a portable cabinet on stand from the Philippine Islands. The collection of silver and clothing in this exhibition includes a commemorative plate from Peru, a helmet for a statue of Saint Michael Archangel, a chasuble and a silver plaque of “Sacred Heart of Jesus” from Mexico.
“Spanish Colonial art from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection” exhibits paintings, sculptures, silver and furniture from a period that uniquely illustrates the merging of European art, culture and aesthetics with those of the indigenous peoples of Central and South American and the Philippine Islands. The Spanish Colonial era presents a culture that constituted the first great flowering of European traditions beyond its continental borders and the resulting transformation that gave the art of colonial Spanish America its special character and sensibility.
The Mint Museum of Art is at 2730 Randolph Road. For information, 704-337-2009 or www.mintmuseum.org.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm