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Converging Landscapes: The Representation of Place in Latin American Colonial Painting

Luisa Elena Alcalá, NYU in Madrid, New York University, Fellow 2009–2010, Fall

My time at Dumbarton Oaks has been spent researching the representation of landscape in Latin American colonial painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Part of the fellowship was used to assess the historiography. As suspected, not much has been written about this topic. This is partly because this field is young and many topics remain unexplored, and also because pre-established assumptions coming from European art about what landscape is and does in a painting are not applicable to Latin American works. On the other hand, colonial studies dealing with other geographies (and images of them) provide interesting parallels and paradigms for consideration. In sum, this preliminary research will be extremely helpful as I compose a book manuscript on landscape images in Latin America during the coming years.

The rest of my time was used to complete research and write an article on a single painting that caused me to think about landscape in Latin America in the first place. This work, Conquista y Reducción de los Indios Infieles de Pantasma y Paracas (Museo de América, Madrid), raises important questions about the way in which landscape ideas and forms circulated on both sides of the Atlantic. In the article, I pursue the thesis that landscape codified certain political and religious ideas, which converged in the Spanish monarchy. This common landscape language informed the production as well as reception of many images so that landscape was not merely a background and secondary element as is often assumed.