Highest Heaven: Spanish and Portuguese Colonial Art
June 11 – September 4, 2016
Gaspar Miguel del Berrío (Bolivian, 1706-1764)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Bishop Saints, ca. 1764
Oil on canvas, h. 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm); w. 33 1/6 in. (83.9 cm)
Roberta and Richard Huber Collection
Photograph by Graydon Wood, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Highest Heaven, opening at the San Antonio Museum of Art on June 11, explores the paintings, sculpture, furniture, ivories and silverworks of the Altiplano, or high plains, of South America in the 18th century. Through the work of both well-regarded masters and lesser-known artists, Highest Heaven highlights the role of art in the establishment of new city centers in the Spanish Empire, and the propagation of the Christian faith among indigenous peoples. Drawn exclusively from the distinguished collection of Roberta and Richard Huber, the exhibition highlights the distinct visual language created by the cultural and creative exchanges that occurred between Spain and Portugal and their South American colonies. The exhibition will remain on view through September 4, 2016, before traveling to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California in October, and to the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts the following March.
The exhibition features more than 100 works, including religious paintings, carved and gilded wooden sculptures, intimate ivories, and silverwork, originally housed in ecclesiastical and private collections throughout the former colonial possessions of Spain and Portugal. The majority of these works were created for functional purposes, as articles of faith or symbols of civic order, and were displayed in a manner that enhanced religious understanding, brought social order, and spurred conversion among colonial populations. Highest Heaven examines these uses, focusing in particular on the translation of Christian imagery to the colonies and the ways in which these works and objects worked to establish an ordered society and were integrated into religious life. The exhibition includes approximately 20 recent acquisitions by the Hubers, many of which have never before been seen in a museum exhibition. [. . .]
Highlights from the exhibition, include:
- Our Lady of the Rosary of Pomata, Bolivia, 17th Century, a moving example of the painted portrayals of the dressed virgin, which mimicked the practice of dressing statues of the Virgin for ceremonies and festivals. This painting style was unique to the Spanish Colonial world, and highlighted the incorporation of the Virgin into the experience of common life.
- Christ Descending Into Hell, a large 18th Century Peruvian painting that dramatically shows a heroic Christ redeeming the souls of humanity—and one of the Hubers’ recent acquisitions;
- A portrait of the Countess of Monteblanco and Miranar, attributed to the 18th-Century Peruvian painter Cristobal Lozano. A splendid portrait of one of the wealthiest women in the Viceroyalty of Peru, the painting shows how the Colonial elite of the New World displayed their status through elaborate representations that enumerated their sophistication and power;
- Rest on the Flight Into Egypt, an 18th Century Bolivian painting that humanizes the Holy Family. It shows the Virgin Mary washing the Christ Child’s diapers, while recognizably South American flora and fauna populate the background;
- Christ Child as Salvator Mundi, an extraordinary Indo-Portuguese ivory sculpture that communicates the humanity and lovability of the Christ Child and depicts a vision of perfect peace and the promise of salvation. These intimate, small scale sculptures were carved by craftsmen in the Spanish and Portuguese possessions of Goa and the Philippines and exported throughout the Colonial World as objects for devotion, testifying to the global nature of the Colonial art world;
- An 18th Century Peruvian Pax, with a scene of Christ revealed to the people after his trial by Pontius Pilate. Made from the abundant silver deposits in the Viceroyalty of Peru, this devotional tablets were used in Mass as an object of veneration.