Theaters of Conversion : Religious Architecture and Indian Artisans in Colonial Mexico

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2001-06-01
  • Publisher: Univ of New Mexico Pr
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Mexico's churches and conventos display a unique blend of European and native styles. Missionary Mendicant friars arrived in New Spain shortly after Cortes's conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521 and immediately related their own European architectural and visual arts styles to the tastes and expectations of native Indians. Right from the beginning the friars conceived of conventos as a special architectural theater in which to carry out their proselytizing. Over four hundred conventos were established in Mexico between 1526 and 1600, and more still in New Mexico in the century following, all built and decorated by native Indian artisans who became masters of European techniques and styles even as they added their own influence. The author argues that these magnificent sixteenth and seventeenth-century structures are as much part of the artistic patrimony of American Indians as their pre-Conquest temples, pyramids, and kivas. Mexican Indians, in fact, adapted European motifs to their own pictorial traditions and thus made a unique contribution to the worldwide spread of the Italian Renaissance. The author brings a wealth of knowledge of medieval and Renaissance European history, philosophy, theology, art, and architecture to bear on colonial Mexico at the same time as he focuses on indigenous contributions to the colonial enterprise. This ground-breaking study enriches our understanding of the colonial process and the reciprocal relationship between European friars and native artisans.

Author Biography

Samuel Y. Edgerton is the Amos Lawrence Professor of Art History at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Art as a Tool of Christian Conversion 1(12)
The Millennium of the Mendicant Friars
The Cross and the Tree: The Christian Convento as Indian Cosmos
The Arch and the Cave: Open Chapels in the Yucatan
Indians and Renaissance Art: Fray Pedro de Gante's School of Art at San Jose de Los Naturales
Christian Murals by Indian Artists
The Convento as Theater: Medieval Autos and Nahua Neixcuitilli
Stage and Scenery
The Cloister as Theater: Adam and Eve Lost in Aztec Paradise
The Convento as Theater of Memory
``El Dorado'': The Desolate Desert Conventos of New Mexico, 1598-1700
Religious Architecture in ``Those Most Remote Provinces''
Notes 299(31)
Bibliography 330(15)
Index 345

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