The acceptance of a classical language in the visual arts

Besides the presence of maestros mayores in Puebla during the latter part of the sixteenth century, the reception and acceptance of the Classical architectural language in Puebla appear in key visual works of the time. Such is the case for painter Luis Lagarto’s work (c. 1556-1624). Born in Andalusia, Spain, Lagarto migrated to New Spain and was active in Mexico City and Puebla. He received the commission for illuminating the choral books of Puebla’s cathedral starting in 1600, spending more than a decade on this project. Of note are some of Lagarto’s miniatures on religious topics painted while he was in the City of Angels, such as “The Annunciation” (1611) and “The Adoration of the Shepherds” (1610), both carried out sometime around 1610.

Both of these images display intricate architectural scenography by the artist, who paid particular attention to ornamental detail to develop a carefully designed backdrop of Classical architecture and decor. In Lagarto’s “The Annunciation” (1610), the scene takes place in a palatial interior of marble Corinthian columns, whose frieze is finely decorated with golden vegetative motifs. In this interior, the Archangel Gabriel meets the Virgin Mary, whose presence opens up a window into heaven with God and a cohort of angels watching the scene from above. At the back of the scene, a view out into a Renaissance-style garden shows carefully manicured parterres, a pheasant, and a loggia supported by intriguing, golden caryatids. The opulent environment, the carefully studied use of perspective, and the bright color palette refer to Italian influences - namely, works by Vincenzo Pagani and Agostino Carracci - but also to the famed “The Annunciation” by Spanish painter Alejo Fernandez (c. 1475-1545), which dates to the early sixteenth century. Additionally, the setting of the scene in an intimate space, as opposed to an outdoor scene, reveals a probable Flemish or Netherlandish influence, perhaps received via prints imported into New Spain.

More importantly, however, Lagarto’s attention to Classical architecture in this work is outstanding as his depiction of entablatures, Corinthian pilasters, columns, Roman vaults, and a technically accomplished perspective point toward a visual proficiency regarding architectural Classicism (see Figure 3.2). What is important to underscore is the existence of an elite poblano audience who appreciated and expected Classical expressions to be part of the artistic products they commissioned.

An abundance of painters and works from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that received commissions in both Puebla de los Angeles and Mexico City, the two most important art markets in New Spain, developed architectural backdrops that employed Classical architecture to stage mostly religious scenes. The work of viceregal New Spanish painters such as Simon de Pereyns (c. 1535-1589), Baltazar de Echave Orio (1548- 1620), Alonso Vazquez (c. 1564-1608), and Jose Juarez (1617 - c. 1670), all accomplished painters of the period and of European origin, are also

Luis Lagarto (Seville 1556-Puebla (?) c. 1624), The Annunciation (1611), Puebla, Mexico, gouache on parchment with gold leaf. 31.43 cm (12.37 in) x 54.61 cm (21.5 in)

Figure 3.2 Luis Lagarto (Seville 1556-Puebla (?) c. 1624), The Annunciation (1611), Puebla, Mexico, gouache on parchment with gold leaf. 31.43 cm (12.37 in) x 54.61 cm (21.5 in).

Source: Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, Denver Art Museum.

indicative of how Classical architectural backdrops became indispensable when representing urban and interior environments.

 
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