Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Missions of Michoacan: Chapitiro

In our recent posts on the Missions of Michoacan we have looked at several early churches along the shores  of Lake Patzcuaro.  In this post we visit the modest church of Santa Ana Chapitiro near San Pedro Pareo
The church front is typical of the area in that numerous reliefs are embedded in the facade, notably below the belltower.  These include rosettes and religious monograms, the sun and moon, as well as a crude depiction of the Mexican arms—an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its mouth.  
A plain cylindrical cross stands atop the tower above a niche with reliefs of the Papal tiara with crossed keys.
"Wound" reliefs at Chapitiro (l) and Pareo (r)
One unusual relief on the tower, similar to that at nearby San Pedro Pareo appears to show a bleeding wound ringed by instruments of the Passion.
The Mexican insignia
There is also an atrium cross out front, which although of modern manufacture rests on an older base with an inscribed pedestal of colonial date.
Inside, the nave of the church is roofed by a curved wooden ceiling painted with decorative motifs of recent vintage.
The remodeled hospital chapel of La Concepcion stands nearby, its doorway embellished with an alfiz and more reliefs including the regionally popular scallop shell.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Diana Roberts and Niccolo Brooker

Visit our earlier pages on the missions of Michoacán: San Nicolas de Obispo;  Naranja de TapiaCharapan; TupataroQuinceoZacánPomacuaránNurio Cocucho AjunoSantiago Charapan; San Sebastián CorupoTanaquilloSanta Clara del CobreTlalpujahuaTzintzuntzanUruapanCapácuaro;  HuiramangaroTarímbaroJarácuaro;  Ziracuaretiro;

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Missions of Michoacan: the Pareo crosses

San Pedro and its sister village of San Bartolo Pareo are located on the southwestern shore of Lake Patzcuaro.
San Pedro Pareo, facade details
San Pedro Pareo
San Pedro’s folk Plateresque inspired church front boasts a shell encrusted doorway, divided choir window, and a rustic tower studded with a variety of reliefs both sacred and secular: fish, animals, sun, moon, keys & rosettes.
The Atrium Cross
Elevated on a tall pedestal atop a tiered, pyramidal base, this puzzling, idiosyncratic cross is carved with spiky geometrical motifs with little overt religious content. An eroded starburst—possibly a stylized Crown—occupies the crossing, with radiating spikes and what appear to be inverted, rope like arrows.
Small circular indentations in the motifs along the arms, neck and in the middle of the shaft suggest the former placement of stone or obsidian disks— plentiful in this volcanic region.
A long inscription carved around the pedestal with several names is dated June 1770. The reverse of the cross is relatively plain.
San Bartolo Pareo, the hospital chapel
San Bartolo Pareo
San Bartolo, recently renamed Lázaro Cárdenas, retains its former hospital chapel as well as a much altered later colonial main church
Located in a vest pocket garden beside the old hospital chapel, this battered cross is composed of several sections.
   Dated 1619 on the pedestal, it bears no carved reliefs save for the remnants of the full figure of Christ Crucified—an unusual configuration comparable to that of Santiago Charapan, as well as the mutilated cross at nearby Zurumucapeo, although nowhere near its level of craftsmanship.
text, graphics and color images ©1997 & 2019 by Richard D. Perry
Visit some of our earlier posts on the crosses of Michoacán: Charapan; Huiramangaro;

See our earlier posts on Lake Patzcuaro communities: Erongaricuaro; Ihuatzio; Arocutín; Tzintzuntzan; Jaracuaro; Puácuaro; Chapitiro;

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Missions of Michoacán: Puácuaro

We continue our posts on the missions of Lake Patzcuaro with a look at Puácuaro on the upper western shore.
   Beyond the narrow, basalt-lined streets of this indigenous village, the picturesque mission affords a breathtaking vista across Lake Patzcuaro. 
Architecturally, Puácuaro is a close relative to the other area missions. The rustic church is flanked on one side by a colonnaded casa cural with prominent overhanging eaves, and on the other side by a free standing belltower—another common regional feature—here capped by a pyramidal cupola. 
© Niccolo Brooker
The 16th century church porch is an authentic example of the mudéjar-inspired Plateresque style of the region. The doorway is framed by an alfiz formed by two styles of scallop shell superimposed on oak or acanthus leaves. An ornamental baluster column divides the shell-encrusted ajimez style choir window —also typical of the region.
© Quin Matthews
A curved wooden ceiling covers the nave, appropriately painted sky blue.
text and graphic © 1997 & 2019 Richard D. Perry
color photography by Quin Matthews & Niccolo Brooker

Please review our other posts on the churches of Lake Patzcuaro:  ErongaricuaroIhuatzioArocutínTzintzuntzan; Pareo; Jaracuaro; Chapitiro;

Friday, October 18, 2019

Oaxaca. La Casa de La Cacica: "Fit for a Queen"

Just to the west of the great Dominican priory of St. Peter and St. Paul Teposcolula, in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, stands the so-called "Casa de la Cacica," a walled compound and palace, or tecpan, built to house the local native nobility and serve as an administrative center. 
   As the name indicates, the Mixtec lord or, in this case, lady in question was a 16th century "queen" of Teposcolula and the nearby  prehispanic community of Yucundaa.
La Casa de la Cacica before restoration (Barry Kiracofe)
Overshadowed by the imposing colonial priory, this unique early colonial complex was built during the 1560s, contemporary with the main period of priory construction. It was later abandoned, possibly following the plague of 1576, and until recently was abandoned to ruin.
La Casa de la Cacica under restoration (2009)

Fortunately, the Casa has been immaculately restored by the Harp Helu Foundation and now houses the Biblioteca Infantil de Oaxaca.

   All the structures display plain but well laid ashlar stonework. The main building, or "palace," is the most elaborate, fitted with shaped stone openings and banded at roof level by ornamental disk friezes, signifying an elite residence in the Mexican tradition
The Friezes
The striking Casa friezes are of special interest. They feature "floral" medallions carved in light colored stone and set in a matrix of dark basalt with red borders. While the precise meaning of these motifs is debated, the alternating circular and petalled disks are thought to signify kingship or royal authority and further, may refer to hallucinogenic plants! 
The petalled disk (right) also recalls the pre hispanic 4 ollín glyph, or Fifth Sun of Aztec cosmology. Similar motifs can be seen adorning the church front at neighboring Yolomécatl, just west of Teposcolula, as well as many other early colonial monuments across Mexico.
the petalled disks at Yolomecatl
*  an early colonial tecpan, from the Codex Osuna
Although remnants of other tecpan and early palace structures are known at Coixtlahuaca and Cuilapan, the remarkable Casa de la Cacica at Teposcolula, as reconstructed, is the most complete such complex to survive in Oaxaca, and in all Mexico.
Text © 2019 by Richard D. Perry. All rights reserved. 
Recent photographs courtesy of Felipe Falcón and Robert Jackson. 

This page draws on Dr. Barry Kiracofe's landmark study of the Casa de la Cacica (1995) with appreciation. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Oaxaca. San Miguel Tulancingo: two more paintings by Miguel de Mendoza

In a previous series we reviewed works by the indigenous poblano painter Miguel de Mendoza, primarily concentrated in churches of the Mixteca region of Oaxaca.   
  In addition to those aforementioned, we now add two more paintings by Mendoza, located in the same area church of San Miguel Tulancingo (not to be confused with the larger town of San Juan Tulancingo in the state of Hidalgo)
San Miguel Tulancingo presents a solid but quite elegant front of finely cut, honey colored limestone. Clearly refurbished in modern times, its format nevertheless relates to that of the nearby  Dominican priory of San Juan Coixtlahuaca, on which it was once dependent, with a classically framed doorway amid multiple shell niches.
Gilded baroque altarpieces stand along the nave. The first, crafted in "solomonic" style with prominent spiral columns, is dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, a favored Dominican devotion.
The center painting by Mendoza portrays the Virgin with Souls in Purgatory (Las Animas) The sinuous figure of Mary, swathed in red and blue robes, dangles the rosary above a praying St. Dominic on the left. St. Francis kneels at right clutching his brown cloak.  Below, suffering souls entreat the Virgin for mercy and salvation.
This altarpiece is also distinguished by its base panel which portrays a Mass for the Dead—a relatively rare depiction, but one also employed by Mendoza, in similar style, for his imposing Last Judgment retablo at nearby Suchixtlahuaca. (Another example can be seen at La Magdalena in Quecholac - Puebla)

A second retablo, fashioned in the later baroque estípite style, is dedicated to San Isidro Labrador.  The workaday figure of the rustic saint dominates the center painting, his raised staff cutting across the composition from corner to corner.  An angel drives his oxen and plough in the background.
Although so far undated, and urgently in need of restoration, both paintings probably date from the early 1700s, when Mendoza was working extensively in the Mixteca region. More typical of his early style, the paintings follow the Mannerist tradition and color palette of the Andalusian baroque as exemplified by the earlier Oaxaca master Andrés de Concha, with whom Mendoza was associated.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
based on, with images adapted from, the 2013 thesis, DON MIGUEL DE MENDOZA. PINTOR INDIO CACIQUE, CATALOGO E ITINERARIO ARTÍSTICO by Perla Miriam Jimenez Santos

Saturday, October 12, 2019

San Sebastian in Mexican art 2.

Our first post on St. Sebastian reviewed some of his portraits in early Mexican murals; the second deals with the depictions of the saint in three dimensional images.
   Three dimensional images of San Sebastian are found in facade sculptures and reliefs, usually of stone or stucco, or in altarpieces, where they are carved from wood or other plant based materials.

   In almost all cases the iconography is the same: the saint is posed naked except for a loin cloth, tied to a tree or post and transfixed by arrows, often with one arm raised. 
   In the majority of these images no bowmen are present, and especially in stone statues, few arrows are generally shown, often just indicated by pierced holes in the body.
   Below we show a variety of stone and wooden statuary in colonial contexts:
Concordia, Sinaloa;                                      San Sebastianito, Jalisco
San Sebastián Analco, Oaxaca
Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco
San Bernardino Xochimilco;                         Santa Prisca de Taxco

Pazulco, Morelos

< Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas
Achiutla, Oaxaca
text and graphics © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and from online sources.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Oaxaca. Tamazulapan: The Main Retablo

In 1542 the people of Tamazulapan cut wood in the mountains to build the first mission in this crossroads town of the Mixteca Alta region of northern Oaxaca. By the mid-1580s a substantial Dominican church had replaced the primitive structure. In the 1700s, the church was apparently rebuilt and a lofty new front added in an imposing "retablo" style. The facade is currently painted a dazzling white, accented with brown, and greatly enlivened by charming folk baroque reliefs of saints and angels in carved stucco.

Tamazulapan facade
The Altarpiece
In 1587 the Sevillian artist Andrés de Concha, who also created retablos for the grand Oaxacan priories of Yanhuitlan, Coixtlahuaca and Teposcolula, entered into a contract with the town of Tamazulapan to fabricate and decorate the principal altarpiece for the new church, at the then princely sum of 2000 pesos.
Little now survives of the 16th century altarpiece. As at Yanhuitlan and Coixtlahuaca, the original retablo was later enlarged and reframed in a rich baroque style replete with intricately carved spiral columns and decorative shell niches containing many later paintings and sculptures. This splendid gilded retablo, which rises in four main tiers and spans seven vertical divisions(calles) in a dynamic, screen-like format, has been fully restored and reassembled to once again dominate the east end of the church.

The Paintings
Although the later addition and misplacement of the artworks has made the original iconography and artistic attribution uncertain, it is believed that four of the ten original paintings contracted for by De Concha still remain in the present retablo, together with early statues of the Apostles.
Nativity (Adoration of Shepherds);                   Adoration of the Magi
The Annunciation;                                             The Circumcision
The four large canvases attributed to De la Concha are located in the outer calles of the retablo and comprise: 1) The Adoration of the Magi (middle right); 2) The Adoration of the Shepherds (middle left)  3) The Annunciation (upper left); and 4) The Circumcision (upper right). 
This last work repeats a theme seen in Andrés de Concha's work at Yanhuitlan and bears some similarity to the composition and palette used at nearby Coixtlahuaca - a style that might be described as Italian Mannerism with a mellow Andalusian flavor.
The other paintings in the altarpiece—in the inner calles—also appear of a later date and portray other scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. They include at least one work by a local native artist of note, one Miguel de Mendoza, whom we have showcased in earlier posts.

The Statuary
Among the many statues of saints in the retablo, several are original. These include the sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul (located in the outer niches of the bottom tier).  Peter is paired with Joachim the father of the Virgin Mary, while Paul stands beside her mother St Anne.
These figures bear a striking similarity to those in the Coixtlahuaca retablo mayor. Their garments are arranged and ornamented in a closely related fashion, and their faces are also alike: Peter with his short beard; Paul with his flowing dark beard; and the telltale raised V in their brow is identical to the Coixtlahuaca sculptures.  
Although the carver of these figures is not known, they may have come from the De Concha workshop, or could possibly be the work of Simón Pereyns, the celebrated 16th century artist who designed and reputedly help carve the Yanhuitlan retablo.
Text © 2007 & 2019  Richard D. Perry
graphics and color images of retablo by the author