Saturday, July 31, 2021

Chiapas. San Miguel Tumbalá

As a late addition to our previous posts on Chiapas, in which we featured the church at Oxchuc, notable for its surviving posa chapels,  we recently obtained pictures of the nearby church of San Miguel Tumbalá, which also retains several posas.

Located in northeastern Chiapas near Palenque, this Dominican mission was originally founded in the mid 1500s as visita of Ocosingo, to serve a relocated community of Chol speaking Maya.

The present church is distinctive in appearance, unlike any other in Chiapas to our knowledge, most likely a result of rebuilding in the 1700s.

church front with flanking posas

Set in the massively buttressed facade, sculpture niches flank the arched doorway as well as the unusual oval choir window which is framed by a carved archway. 

oval choir window

Paired belfries bracket the be-scrolled gable.

Inside, the long single nave is mostly unadorned, spanned by a handsome beamed ceiling.

angled corner posa

Other unusual features at Tumbala include what appear to be posa chapels, two beside the church front and another angled in the far corner of the walled atrium—rare survivals in Chiapas.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry

images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and Sergio Diaz Sosa.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Tlaxcala. Santiago Cuaula

July 25th is the feast of St James Major, better known in Mexico as Santiago. To mark this day we return to northern Tlaxcala to visit the parish church of Santiago Cuaula.
Niccolo Brooker
Originally a visita of the nearby mission of Franciscan Calpulalpan, Santiago Cuaula boasts a grand front distinguished by the church facade, an arcaded porteria and two imposing belltowers .
Niccolo Brooker
The facade, reworked in late colonial times, features a lobed doorway crowned by a handsome curved and bescrolled gable pierced by a slanted barbed quatrefoil opening—a motif repeated in the atrium gateway.

Niccolo Brooker
Beneath a beamed ceiling, a series of framed sculpture niches articulates the long nave, whose east end is graced by an elegant gilded altarpiece.
Niccolo Brooker
 Framed in a modest late baroque style, the retablo showcases statuary mostly of recent manufacture and is inset with painted ovals and in the gable, a large square panel depicting the Patron, St James (Santiago) as well as a relief at the base.

Niccolo Brooker

A colorful statue of the militant saint stands in the nave along with an rugged early stone font that dates from the Franciscan years.
An adjacent sumptuous side chapel, La Capilla de las Ollitas, so named for the reputed use of thousands of ceramic jars in its roof construction, houses a regionally venerated image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

please visit our other recent Tlaxcala altarpieces posts: HuamantlaAcuamanalaPalacio del GobiernoThe Dancing Kings of San Jose; Zacatelco;  Apetatitlan;  Santa Cruz de Tlaxcala; 


Friday, July 23, 2021

Veracruz. Orizaba: La Concordia; two paintings

The mixed race painter Miguel de Cabrera (1695—1768) was the leading and most prolific artist of his generation, famous for his luminous late baroque style. His work is found throughout Mexico. He is known for his intimate portraits in popular style as well as his larger crowded canvases in a grand, rococo influenced manner.
La Concordia.
In this post we focus on two examples; found in the ornate late colonial Santuario de La Concordia in Orizaba, Vera Cruz.
The first is a characteristically intimate, idealized portrait of St. Joseph with the Christ Child, framed in a chiaroscuro style which was somewhat outmoded in Cabrera’s time. 
    The child Jesus holds the traditional staff with a lily usually carried by Joseph, who is shown here as a young man rather than the graybeard as he is often portrayed.
The second canvas portrays the Assumption or Coronation of the Virgin in Cabrera’s more conventional manner although still on a small scale. The Virgin, clad in a voluminous blue robe is transported heavenward by angels surmounted by the Holy Trinity holding her crown.
See our earlier Veracruz posts: Acultzingo; Jalacingo
text ©2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker, who brought these paintings to our attention

Monday, July 19, 2021

Mexico. Soyaniquilpan (Mexico State near Jilotepec)

 For another in our occasional series on notable early colonial doorways, we go to San Francisco Soyaniquilpan in Mexico State.

The conventual church retains its charming 16th century front entry fashioned in Plateresque style, with a flattened ogee arch resting on Renaissance style coffered jambs; the entire porch is surmounted in turn by a broad alfiz that is capped by a classical entablature with a horizontal Isabelline pearl molding and knotted Franciscan cords carved in the vertical supports. 
Curly Gothic crockets climb the steep sides of the pointed choir window, which encloses a Latin inscription in antique lettering invoking the prayers of a namesake of the patron St Francis, dated 1585
   As at San Jerónimo Aculco, there is a wall cross here, no doubt also dating from the 1500s. Delicately carved, with an expansive, spiny Crown and three drippy Wounds, the cross is mounted over the choir window atop a pedestal with floral relief ornament including octofoil rosettes.

This is not an atrium cross, but is nevertheless an early sculpted wall cross. The cross is, I believe, in its original place. My reasons are first, its relatively small scale, second, its almost two dimensional quality and finally, the large size and limited number of the Passion reliefs in relation to the rest of the cross, especially the broad crown of thorns motif at the crossing. 
The church interior is brightened by a handsome, gilded altarpiece in late baroque/rococo style, with an attractive painting of the Virgin of Light, a portrayal notable for the omission of the traditional Jaws of Hell from which the Virgin is saving the youth on her right.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Friday, July 2, 2021

Chiapas. San Felipe Ecatepec

Winding up our current series on Chiapas we visit the community of San Felipe Ecatepec.
   Located beside a sharp curve in the Pan American highway, this rustic mission town clings to the sheltering slopes of a wooded valley just west of San Cristóbal. Now virtually a barrio of the expanding city, it was a separate village in the colonial period. In 1625, the English Dominican Thomas Gage received a rousing welcome here: 
   "The whole village of St. Philip waited for us, both men and women, some presenting us nosegays . . . others dancing before us all along the street, which was strewn with herbs and orange leaves and adorned with many arches hung with garlands for us to ride under until we came to the church."
The Church
One of the first missions to be founded by the Dominican order, about 1550, San Felipe was later ceded to the Franciscans. The primitive adobe church was greatly expanded in the 1600s, when masonry buttresses strengthened the nave and tiles replaced the old thatched roof. During the same period, the narrow rubblestone sanctuary was added and the formidable stone facade erected.
facade detail
The plain exterior, with its mix of materials and uneven finish, proclaims the humble origins of the church, and the detailing of the facade and windows reinforces the feeling of an authentic pueblo-de-indios mission. Viewed from the walled forecourt, the west front is especially impressive. The facade rises in three tiers, culminating in a wide arcaded espadaña that towers above the nave behind.
graphic © Richard Perry
Elevated at the head of a steep flight of stone steps, the west porch dominates the main tier. Two massive wall buttresses, inset with niches, anchor the simple arched doorway like a medieval gateway. Flat pilasters, crudely incised with fluting and diaperwork, divide the two upper tiers and enclose a low, Romanesque style choir window and two larger side niches. Roughly formed volutes bracket the crowning espadaña, which is flanked by slender belfries with high, round domes that add even greater height to the facade. 
Inside the church, a broad plank ceiling with wooden tie beams spans the nave, abutting at the east end a triumphal sanctuary arch inset with niches. Beyond the archway lies the narrow squared apse, covered by an angular hipped roof. 
Several intriguing colonial furnishings enliven the rural simplicity of the spacious church interior. A large gilded altarpiece in provincial late baroque style, occupies the sanctuary. Restoration following the 2017 earthquake revealed its date : 1813. 
    The main altarpiece shows both Franciscan and Dominican emblems and portraits, including an original statue of the titular saint, St Philip of Jesus, in the center niche, and a contemporary image of the Virgin Mary.
The lateral retablo of San Antonio (Haydee Orea)
A pair of smaller late baroque retablos face each other across the nave. One, dedicated to St Anthony of Padua is elegantly framed by spiral columns, and crowned by a painting of the Mexican Trinity and the Franciscan crossed arms insignia.
    Other curiosities include a gaily painted wooden confessional and the monumental carved stone baptismal font placed just inside the entrance. 
text and graphic© 1995 & 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images as acknowledged and from online sources

For more on colonial Chiapas, consult our guidebook, available from Amazon