Cuzco & St. Joseph

In school, my Latin American art class has been learning a lot about the colonial period of South America. This is a period after the arrival of Columbus, when missionaries, priests, monks, and others would come to the new world and try to help spread the word of God.

Although many times, there were incidents were the Europeans were cruel and they oppressed many of the Indians, there has been some good that came out of this. For one, it exposed Europe to the wonders of the new world. These wonders not being gold, money, or material, but hundreds of other people and their cultures! Another reason is that the culture of Latin America artists and European artists were mingled and somehow it created wonderful artworks.

Since the feast day of St. Joseph is coming up (March 19th), I thought I could write about an artwork on him! I found a painting from the late 17th and 18th century called Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, that shows the style of the Cuzco School. The artist is unknown. It may have been more than one person who worked on this piece, especially since it was created in an art school.

Unknown, Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, late 17th and 18th century

Image from Khan Academy

The Cuzco school focused their attention on intimating the styles of Flemish and Spanish art. This is probably because most areas of South America were receiving paints and print examples of art from Netherlands and Spain. This was a technique used to expose the Latin Americans to the different styles/ability of art in European. As a result, there are many artworks in South American that show on landscape details, extravagant details, perspective and space.

This painting shows Joseph and Christ as a child. The two figures are the center of the work, with a beautiful landscape in the back. This landscape is a little hazy and difficult to see. It maybe be because Joseph and Christ are on a hilltop/mountain. Both of them have golden halos. This is interesting because most halos are usually white, circular, and sometimes simple. In this case, the halos are golden and pointing outwards instead of in a strict circular shape. In this work, Joseph is relatively young. He is holding the hand on Jesus, and some white lily flowers in his other hand. Usually white lily flowers are associated with Joseph and sometimes with Mary (in certain artworks). This is most likely a symbol showing his pureness and holiness.

Christ Child

Both Joseph and Christ are dressed very elegantly and lavishly, almost as though they are in lace material. This is not the attire they would have worn in their real lives. This artist’s choice can be another way to emphasis their holiness.

St. Joseph is seen as the patron of many things, some of them being the church, and of Peru. It makes sense to have stunning artworks of St. Joseph, since South America was being exposed to Christianity/Catholicism and he is a patron of Peru. Plus, he can be seen as a relatable figure for individuals who are learning of Christianity/Catholicism.


Feature Image is from smarthistory.org

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