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Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1780-1910

Paul B. Niell

Publication Year: 2013

The promotion of classicism in the visual arts in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century Latin America and the need to “revive” buen gusto (good taste) are the themes of this collection of essays. The contributors provide new insights into neoclassicism and buen gusto as cultural, not just visual, phenomena in the late colonial and early national periods and promote new approaches to the study of Latin American art history and visual culture.

The essays examine neoclassical visual culture from assorted perspectives. They consider how classicism was imposed, promoted, adapted, negotiated, and contested in myriad social, political, economic, cultural, and temporal situations. Case studies show such motivations as the desire to impose imperial authority, to fashion the nationalist self, and to form and maintain new social and cultural ideologies. The adaptation of classicism and buen gusto in the Americas was further shaped by local factors, including the realities of place and the influence of established visual and material traditions.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

This volume has been informed by new research directions arising from individual and group initiatives and vigorous discussions of issues among colleagues in public and private. The conversations and critiques arising from these formal and informal scholarly gatherings led to a more nuanced appreciation ...

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pp. xiii-xxxvi

In 1813 the Professor of Mathematics don Pedro Abad Villareal, of the college and seminary of San Carlos in Havana, Cuba, wrote, “Architecture as a liberal art, and one of the fine arts, has deserved a very distinguished place among cultured nations . . . for which in modern times many academies of fine arts have been erected in order to revive good taste, ...

Part One: Redefining Urban Space and the Promotion of Classicism

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1: Manuel Tolsá’s Equestrian Statue of Charles IV and Buen Gusto in Late Colonial Mexico

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pp. 3-24

During his two-month stay in Mexico in 1781, the soldier and future Spanish minister of state Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis noted in his journal the prevalence of “bad taste.” Although he found Mexico City’s outskirts to be “extremely beautiful,” the fountains and decorations were “in bad taste.” ...

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2: Gothic Taste vs. Buen Gusto: Creolism, Urban Space, and Aesthetic Discourse in Late Colonial Peru

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pp. 25-48

In Peru in the second half of the eighteenth century, viceregal authorities promoted an aesthetic discourse that differentiated two opposing scenes. On one hand, it was a discourse favorable to academicism and classicism, part of a modernizing project to impose order, control, buen gusto (good taste), and uniformity in colonial practices. ...

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3: El Templete: Classicism and the Dialectics of Colonial Urban Space in Early Nineteenth-Century Havana, Cuba

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pp. 49-71

On March 19, 1828, Havana, Cuba, inaugurated a civic memorial for the east side of the city’s Plaza de Armas. The event climaxed a three-day festival officially designated to honor the founding of the city and the name day of Spain’s Queen Maria Josepha, wife of his majesty Ferdinand VII (r. 1813–1829, 1833). ...

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4: Neoclassical Pompai in Early Twentieth-Century Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

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pp. 72-90

This chapter addresses the use of antiquity in the shaping of identities in new Latin American republics in the early twentieth century. Specifically, it investigates the aesthetics of public neoclassical monuments within the politics of self-representation in Colombia. ...

Part Two: Imprinting Classicism and Its Consumption

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5: A Taste for Art in Late Colonial New Spain

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pp. 93-113

The description of the festivities surrounding the December 1796 installation of a new equestrian portrait of Charles IV, as chronicled in the Gazeta de México, Mexico City’s biweekly newspaper, concluded with the following notice: “At the order of the Most Excellent Viceroy, Joseph Joaquín Fabregat, ...

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6: The Plantation Landscape and Its Architecture: Classicism, Representation, and Slavery

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pp. 114-135

Architecture both reveals and hides, and what a viewer is permitted to see, or not to see, depends on many kinds of cultural determinations and social circumstances. In modern societies the concern with privacy is an obvious factor.1 A far older, though related, concern is that with honor. ...

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7: Buen Gusto and the Transition to Nation: 1830–1850

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pp. 136-156

As discussed in the introduction to this volume, buen gusto encompassed more than a visual style, operating to cohere colonial subjects of the viceroyalties and, subsequently, citizens of emerging nations around a sense of collective selfhood. Buen gusto, then, operated differently at different times, reflecting ongoing sociopolitical transitions. ...

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8: A Western Mirage on the Bolivian Altiplano

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pp. 157-176

About fifteen years ago, Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori cited three unrivaled pre-Columbian sites in South America: Machu Picchu, Chavín de Huántar, and Kuelap. Of the three, Kuelap is by far the most neglected by the modern gaze, even though it has been known to the Western world since the mid-nineteenth century. ...

Part Three: Dividing Lines: Practices and Problems

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9: The Language of Line in Late Eighteenth-Century New Spain: The Calligraphic Equestrian Portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez (1796)

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pp. 179-205

On November 30, 1795, the standing viceroy in New Spain, Manuel de la Grúa, marqués de Branciforte, wrote a letter to Manuel Godoy, chief minister at the Spanish royal court, requesting permission to erect an equestrian sculpture in honor of Charles IV, the king of Spain.1 ...

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10: Art and Viceregal Taste in Late Colonial Lima and Buenos Aires

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pp. 206-231

Viceroy Manuel de Amat y Junient was a zealous Bourbon Reform–era leader in the Viceroyalty of Peru. His memoirs and correspondence teem with lengthy descriptions and praise of his accomplishments in improving colonial bureaucracy, reestablishing the vigor of the military, and ensuring public order throughout the region. ...

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11: From Baroque Triumphalism to Neoclassical Renunciation: Altarpieces of the Cathedral of Cuzco in the Era of Independence

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pp. 232-254

In the years leading up to and following Peru’s independence from Spain in 1824, Peruvians professed many different loyalties, in politics, religion, and art. Movements such as the revolt led by the native Andean leader Túpac Amaru II (1780–1783) called for a complete break from Spanish rule but professed allegiance to the Catholic Church.1 ...

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12: Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Late Nineteenth Century: An Appraisal in the Context of the 1881 Centennial of Mexico’s Academy of San Carlos

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pp. 255-272

The majority of the essays in this volume shape the problems of buen gusto (good taste) and classicism in Latin America from the perspective of the late eighteenth-century initiation of the Bourbon Reforms and their aftereffects, as well as the initiation of nation building in the first half of the nineteenth century. ...


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pp. 273-276


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pp. 277-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780826353771
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826353764

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2013