Presenting 13 paintings by South American artists from the 17th through 19th century, this focused exhibition introduces visitors to images promoted by several Catholic orders at work in the Spanish Andes—the Dominicans, Franciscans, Mercedarians, and Jesuits—examining the politics of the distinct iconographies each group developed as they vied for devotees and dominion.
Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru with a mandate from Charles V to impose Spanish law and order, as well as the Roman Catholic religion, upon the indigenous Inca society that he encountered. The enormous task of converting the indigenous peoples of Spain’s overseas territories to Christianity fell largely to missionaries from several religious orders rather than parish clergy. For a native population that had no written language tradition, the missionaries relied heavily on works of art to illustrate their sermons and lessons and help them gain converts.
In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church embraced the use of images both as pedagogical tools and instruments of devotion, and the religious orders in South America relied on them in similar ways—as didactic materials employed in the teaching of new converts, and in later years as a means of spreading devotions specific to their own interests. While their ultimate goals were the same, each religious order promoted images specific to their own histories, identities, and goals. This exhibition explores examples of the iconographies that were particular to each group.