Object Record

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Catalog number 2003.4.69
Artist Unknown artist, Cuzco School of Painting
Title Madonna and Christ Child reading a book
Date ca. 1700s
Object Name Painting
Description In pre-Hispanic Andean societies, women were the keepers of religious organizations dedicated to female deities conceptualized as the forces of procreation and regeneration. Not surprisingly, after the Spanish conquest, Indian converts venerated the image of the Virgin Mary as their patroness, endowing her with miraculous powers, for she was easily identified with Pachamama, the Inca earth-mother goddess, impregnated by the Sun god Inti, who aids and sustains humanity. Thus, the most abundant subject of the Cuzco
School is the Virgin, who was venerated in many cults.

"The Madonna and Christ Child Reading a Book" is an example of the expressive, "naive" style found in Cuzqueno paintings. The Virgin and Child are at the center: the Christ Child holds an open book-a symbol of knowledge-while the Virgin tenderly holds her son. She wears the typical colors associated with the Inca: red for strength and war, green for nature and fertility, and yellow for the Sun. Two angels flanking the figures float above, trying to hold the Virgin's crown in place. Angels were extremely important in Cuzqueno works; the cult of angels that had enjoyed popularity in old Spain was probably brought to the Americas through works of artists like Francisco de Zurbaran. In colonial Andean works, these celestial beings are placed at the apex of the group, since they stand in for pre-Hispanic gods.

By the 18th century, the Cuzco school became a mass-production business, with many local artists being hastily and forcibly trained, in order to supply the large amounts of religious works that were disseminated not only throughout South America but Europe as well. Since the production of works was considered a communal effort, the vast majority of works are unsigned, which makes identifying individual artists problematic.
* Arianne Fernandez, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 51.
Medium/Material Oil on canvas
Dimensions H-27 W-22 inches
Search Terms Devotional
South America
18th century AD
Madonna and Child
New Testament
Exhibition and Publication History * "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 51, ill.
Culture Peruvian/Bolivian