- Object and Apparition: Envisioning the Christian Divine in the Colonial Andes by Maya Stanfield-Mazzi
Object and Apparition: Envisioning the Christian Divine in the Colonial Andes by Maya Stanfiled Mazzi is a richly documented, well-illustrated book that studies the proliferation of miraculous images in the southern highlands of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Peru. The author, an art historian, gives a social art-historical account of some of the most important and enduring sculptures and paintings of the [End Page 690] southern Andes. Some images, such as Our Lord of the Earthquake in Cuzco and the Virgin of Copacabana, are relatively well studied and rather familiar. Others are less well known, such as the Virgin of Pomata. She brings these images into dialogue with one another by framing them within an analysis of their common historical place as a part of Andean Evangelization. She begins her account by delineating the differences between Andean (Inca) and Catholic forms of religious imagery so as to understand the developments that took place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She dwells (rightfully so) on Andean ancestor worship and the cult of mummies as forms of veneration and communication. This is quickly followed by an account of the extirpation of these forms during the early campaigns of evangelization carried out by various orders that evangelized this region. Much of this is well-trodden territory, including the early struggles of the Dominicans with the secular church in the area around Lake Titicaca; however, her reading of church inventories for Zepita and Juli reveals how, from very early on, liturgical objects, especially altar cloths, were a combination of pre-Columbian and European motifs. This melding of values expressed through iconography and media allows the reader to understand the complex nature of Andean Christian devotion.
There are several problems in the book that give the reader pause in terms of having confidence that the author has firm control of her data. In truth, this could have been avoided if the readers’ reports and the editors had been a bit more thorough in reading the manuscript. The most significant problem is that the author really does not have a firm grasp of the orthodoxy of Christian doctrine, or she at least does not distinguish between orthodoxy and the heterodoxy of Andean Christianity. Thus the author consistently refers to the images of Jesus, Mary, and others as images of Christian deities. For example, on page 3 she writes: “the statues represented the principal Christian deities believed to have taken human form, especially Jesus and his mother.” This is not a simple, one-time mistake but is a consistent form for addressing Christian religious imagery. The idea that the diverse images represent a plethora of Christian deities is restated on pages 59, 65, 120, and 156. Christianity is a monotheistic religion, although the concept of the Trinity may have been difficult to convey to the Andeans, and they may have interpreted it as three distinct entities. Whatever the case, the distinction is not made by the author between doctrine and local interpretation. There are also other glaring factual mistakes. For example, Santfield-Maya identifies one of the three areas that Charles V claimed as his own as being La Puna in Argentina. In fact, the area claimed by Charles V was la Isla Puná in Ecuador, which was a major trading center at the mouth of the Guayas river and more than 1000 miles distant. These kinds of errors should have been caught by the reviewers of the manuscript, and they mar what is otherwise a fine contribution to the study of Andean Catholicism and art history. [End Page 691]