Friday, February 14, 2020

Zacatecas: The Pinos altarpieces 1

Followers of our blog will know of our interest in the Ureña family* of 18th century Mexican architects and retablo designers and their various works across the country.
In previous posts we have described the spectacular Ureña altarpieces in the Zacatecas church of San Agustín.
   Next in our series we look at two altarpieces in the old mining town of Pinos, also in Zacatecas, both attributable to Juan Garcia Castañeda, the retablista and son in law of Felipe de Ureña, the family patriarch and principal designer.
   The colonial mining town of Pinos, located on the Camino de Plata, or inland silver route, was founded in the late 1500s when gold and silver were found in the nearby Sierra de Pinos. It was initially populated by immigrants from Tlaxcala who were recruited to work in the mines, and who established the town's first church of La Purisima in the barrio known as Tlaxcalilla, or simply Tlaxcala.
   The main historic center of Pinos contains two colonial churches; the first belonging to the former mission of San Francisco, established by the Franciscans around 1600, and the baroque parish church of San Matias across from the main plaza. 
   Operating from the principal Ureña workshop in the city of Zacatecas, the family and especially Castañeda designed created and installed retablos for several churches in the Zacatecas region and beyond. 
Although still not securely documented, it is believed that
Castañeda created altarpieces for three churches in Pinos: in the parish church of San Matías, the monastery church of San Francisco, and the outlying Temple of Purísima Tlaxcalilla.
San Francisco de Pinos
In this first post we look at the church of San Francisco.
San Francisco de Pinos, the nave
San Francisco
Baroque and neoclassical retablos line the nave at San Francisco, but it is the retablo mayor that is most likely the work of Castañeda.
San Francisco de Pinos, the main altarpiece
Although the San Francisco retablo is perhaps the most restrained of the Pinos group, both in form and ornament, it remains sumptuously carved and gilded. 
Narrow, richly encrusted estípite columns form the inner supports, that extend visually into the crowning gable emphasizing  the verticality of the retablo—a classic Ureña format, also seen in Felipe's seminal altarpiece in San Francisco, Texcoco. 
   The estipites are flanked on the outside by broad, two tiered niche-pilasters which frame the embedded polychrome statuary in layered folds of sinuous scrollwork and dense rocaille relief that soften the architectural lines. 
Statues of Franciscan saints occupy the various niches. And at the apex of the retablo hangs a venerable black cristo de caña, known locally as Nuestro Padre Jesús, beneath a relief of El Padre Eterno.
Known as El maestro transhumante, the "peripatetic master", Felipe de Ureña was the most influential of the Mexican born architect /designers to introduce and expand the Churrigueresque or barroco estípite style into New Spain. During the second half of the 18th century, together with family members, he was primarily responsible for the spread and subsequent evolution of this ornate late baroque style into cities across Mexico, especially along the silver routes north of Mexico City. Primarily an innovative designer and fabricator of altarpieces, he later adapted the barroco estípite style as it was called, for church facades. His elegant and distinctive designs are recognized as the "felipense" style.
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

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