Composing the World in Spanish Colonial Painting: The Descent of Christ into Limbo and the Pilgrimage to Paradise



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Composing the World in Spanish Colonial Painting explores the cross-fertilization between western images of the world and indigenous traditions of envisioning the earth through one enigmatic seventeenth century painting from the Cuzco School: The Descent of Christ into Limbo. This thesis is dedicated to understanding the re-arrangement of the figured world in Spanish Colonial painting through the fusion of indigenous (Andean) and European worldviews. I am especially interested in how indigenous artists of the Spanish colonies participated in what has been known as the “Global Baroque,” and how looking at them as native artists creating a figured world in a specific place may help us more fully understand works such as the one before us. I believe that The Descent of Christ into Limbo, calls for the study of symbolic and religious meanings embedded in it, by both Andean and European cosmologies. This painting is part of a collection of paintings largely from production centers of the Andes, such as Cuzco and Quito. But it does not quite fit the kind of paintings associated with these flourishing schools. Therefore, I have dedicated great part of my thesis to study the reasons of why this enigmatic work is so unique and different from other Spanish Colonial paintings from the same period. This in part, because church officials conveniently selected and approved images as “art” that were consistent with European taste. Yet, there is a fine line between indigenous religious concepts and the Christian ones embedded in this painting. It is my hope that this study can contribute to the understanding of how visual images and theological concepts like Limbo, served as aids to replace and/or erase ancient religious cults and behaviors, with the purpose of composing a new world in the Andes. Yet, this was a partial accomplishment since indigenous art and culture played a huge role in building what we know as Viceregal or Spanish Colonial Art.



Composing, Andean, Cosmopoietic, Limbo, Pilgrimage, Paradise, Quadripartite, multi-zone, tripartite, landscape, prints, Spanish, Colonial, Cuzco, Painting, Jesuit, missions.