Friday, April 2, 2021

San Luis Potosí. San Miguel Mexquitic,

Recently our attention was drawn to the conventual church of San Miguel Mexquitic de Carmona in the western part of San Luis Potosi state, NW of the capital.
   Mexquitic was a colonial mining town founded to house workers from Tlaxcala who were imported to work the mines as were others in the region including not too distant Pinos in the state of Zacatecas.
The original Franciscan mission from the 1590s, one of the first in the region, was rebuilt in the 1700s, when the front was redesigned in provincial baroque style. The upper facade contains three sculpture niches which contain statues of the archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.
San Miguel
San Rafael                       San Gabriel

Like the Pinos churches, San Miguel Mexquitic houses a main retablo very much in the late baroque estípite style, which suggests the possible involvement of the Ureña family and their principal retablista Juan Garcia de Castañeda.
While the gable of the altarpiece appears to be a later addition, the main tier of prominent estipites framing expansive niche-pilasters replete with statuary and figure sculpture bears a strong family resemblance to Ureña/Castañeda retablos throughout the region.
   A flamboyant archangel Michael occupies the broad center niche, while Franciscan saints stand in the flanking niches. 
before restoration
The most interesting feature of this altarpiece, however, is the painting of San Miguel in the upper part (Gable). This is a copy of the original, now housed in the sacristy and recently restored. During restoration, the painting was determined to date from the late 16th or early 17th centuries, possibly brought by the early settlers and likely the oldest  known colonial artwork in the state, possibly once installed in an earlier retablo.
detail of painting as restored

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images © Tanja Mastroiacovo & Niccolo Brooker

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