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Object and Apparition

Envisioning the Christian Divine in the Colonial Andes

Maya Stanfield-Mazzi

Publication Year: 2013

When Christianity was imposed on Native peoples in the Andes, visual images played a fundamental role, yet few scholars have written about this significant aspect. Object and Apparition proposes that Christianity took root in the region only when both Spanish colonizers and native Andeans actively envisioned the principal deities of the new religion in two- and three-dimensional forms. The book explores principal works of art involved in this process, outlines early strategies for envisioning the Christian divine, and examines later, more effective approaches.

Maya Stanfield-Mazzi demonstrates that among images of the divine there was constant interplay between concrete material objects and ephemeral visions or apparitions. Three-dimensional works of art, specifically large-scale statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary, were key to envisioning the Christian divine, the author contends. She presents in-depth analysis of three surviving statues: the Virgins of Pomata and Copacabana (Lake Titicaca region) and Christ of the Earthquakes from Cusco.

Two-dimensional painted images of those statues emerged later. Such paintings depicted the miracle-working potential of specific statues and thus helped to spread the statues’ fame and attract devotees. “Statue paintings” that depict the statues enshrined on their altars also served the purpose of presenting images of local Andean divinities to believers outside church settings.

Stanfield-Mazzi describes the unique features of Andean Catholicism while illustrating its connections to both Spanish and Andean cultural traditions. Based on thorough archival research combined with stunning visual analysis, Object and Apparition analyzes the range of artworks that gave visual form to Christianity in the Andes and ultimately caused the new religion to flourish.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

It is a pleasure to thank the many people and institutions that have assisted me in the process of bringing this book, and the dissertation from which it emerged, to fruition. Research for the dissertation was generously funded by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Summer Research Mentorship, the Edward A. Dickson History of Art Fellowship (UCLA), the...

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pp. 1-8

This is a book about how a new religion was forged through images in the early modern Andes. After the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532, the colonizers began to entice, cajole, and force the region’s native inhabitants to forsake their own religions and convert to Christianity. By mandate of the Spanish kings, as well as the pope in Rome, new arrivals in the Andes saw...

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1. Dissolution and Reconfiguration

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pp. 9-32

Many of the Spanish missionaries who arrived in Peru in the early sixteenth century came with a mentality of conquest. January of 1492 had seen the fall of Granada, the last of the Muslim caliphates on the Iberian Peninsula, and in March of the same year an edict was issued to expel all Jews from the Spanish kingdoms. The last decade of the fifteenth century...

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Part I. The Christian Divine in Three Dimensions

The establishment of effective Christian images in the colonial Andes was not immediate, nor were the prodigious images evenly distributed throughout the colony. When colonial towns were established during the sixteenth century, they were hurriedly named after saints, and each town church was furnished with at least one image of its titular saint. But those images...

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2. Early Christianity in the Altiplano

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pp. 35-58

Lake Titicaca and its surrounding region were considered sacred in the Andean worldview. The basin was a cradle of civilization in ancient times and later served as the center of the theocratic Tiwanaku state.1 The giant mirrorlike lake was used for fishing, and farmland along its edges was especially fertile since it remains at a stable, nonfreezing temperature throughout...

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3. Prodigious Statues in Pomata and Beyond

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pp. 59-83

During the early period of evangelization in the Altiplano, churches had been quickly built and hurriedly named after Christian saints. Saints’ day celebrations were established around each town’s new titular saint, and each church probably had a painting of its namesake. Santiago de Pomata, for example, had a large framed painting on canvas of St. James.1 Images...

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4. Christian Beginnings in the Inca Capital

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pp. 84-96

While the monastic orders played a major role in establishing Christianity and its visual forms in the Altiplano and other even more rural areas, the secular church was more dominant in the cities. And while the establishment of cults to the Virgin Mary in places like Pomata and Copacabana constituted a resacralization of the landscape, the formulation of Christian...

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5. Christ of the Earthquakes

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pp. 97-116

In the years following the 1650 Cusco earthquake, the Cathedral was repaired and finished, and finally, after ninety-four years of construction, it was inaugurated in 1654. Sitting high above the main plaza, the edifice is an imposing baroque monument to the triumph of Christianity in the Andes. The parish church of Spaniards and the seat of the bishop and cabildo...

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Part II. The Christian Divine in Two Dimensions

By the early seventeenth century, the statues considered in part I came to be known as unique, convincing images of the Christian divine. A rich repertoire of display was developed for each object. While many of the same items were used to create each display, subtle differences distinguished each statue from others of the same personage or iconographic...

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6. Miracle Paintings

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pp. 119-136

By the late sixteenth century, accounts told of prodigious statues working miracles in the Andes.1 While the official position of the church was that the Christian deities in heaven worked through the images, only certain statues were capable of serving as conduits for divine action. Common parlance also tended to refer to a specific statue as the agent of a miracle...

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7. Statue Paintings

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pp. 137-176

The final artistic genre to emerge in the process of envisioning the Christian divine in the Andes was the statue painting (Fig. 7.1). Many of these works, with their strict symmetry, rich coloration and patterning, and abundant gold leaf, have become emblematic of the art of colonial Peru. Images of statues of the Virgin Mary with their mantles arranged to create...

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pp. 177-184

This book has been much inspired by the continued presence of Catholic devotion and Catholic imagery in the Andes today.1 Virtually all Andean beliefs and rituals show some influence of Christianity, though many pre-Hispanic ways of thinking and doing have also survived.2 It is nearly impossible to isolate any purely non-Christian Andean beliefs, just as it is...


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pp. 185-220


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pp. 221-234


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pp. 235-242

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About the Author

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p. 270-270

Maya Stanfield-Mazzi specializes in art of the pre-Columbian and colonial Andes, especially that of colonial Peru. She became interested in art of the colonial Andes while studying in Quito, Ecuador, as part of earning a B.A. in Latin American studies from Smith College. She later received an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599110
E-ISBN-10: 0816599114
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530311
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530319

Page Count: 269
Illustrations: 53 photos, 3 maps, 9 plates
Publication Year: 2013