Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Oaxaca. Treasures of Yautepec 2: The Main Altarpiece

The principal artistic treasure inside the church of San Bartolo Yautepec, as with others we have seen in the region, is its gilded main altarpiece.
   Only recently professionally restored, the retablo has a fraught history. In 2003 a botched attempt at restoration, that fraudulently involved the application of gold paint instead of gold leaf, led to its further deterioration.

the altarpiece under restoration (2014)
By 2007 the villagers persuaded the experienced restorers at INAH to undertake a rescue effort, funded by the Harp Helú Foundation (FAHHO)  Preliminary stabilization and conservation of the altarpiece was completed, but funding ran out. Further deterioration ensued but in 2013 work resumed with funds from FAHHO, and full restoration was completed by 2015.
the restored altarpiece
Thought to date from the late 1700s, based on its design and ornament, the retablo rises in two main tiers each framed by slender estípite columns, some enclosing "curtained" niches with layered supporting corbels. All the intervening spaces are densely filled with sinuous rocaille reliefs, whose curved facets reflect a golden light throughout the nave.
   The figure of patron St Bartholomew occupies the opulent center spot, while statues of the Four Evangelists fill the lateral niches.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry

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