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Lot 271A: Mid-18th C. Cuzco School Oil Painting, Santa Barbara

Artemis Gallery

June 29, 2017
Louisville, CO, US

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Spanish Colonial, Peru, Cuzco School, ca. 1750 CE. A very large, framed, oil-on-canvas painting depicting Santa Barbara dressed in elaborate embroidered and lace-trimmed garments or rich hues and sumptuous fabrics, holding her chief attribute, a model of the tower where her father locked her away to discourage suitors (Was this the source for Rapunzel perhaps? See below.) as well as a huge peacock feather, a symbol of her immortality. The painting was rendered in a style that bears the hallmarks of Cusquena style, such that the artist featured a religious subject, did not emphasize linear perspective, favored rich jewel tones (red, yellow, and blue) as well as earth tones. See more on St. Barbara's story and the Cuzco School below. Size: 43.875" L x 31" W (111.4 cm x 78.7 cm); 44.75" L x 31.75" W (113.7 cm x 80.6 cm) with frame

Saint Barbara is a former Christian saint and virgin martyr believed to have lived in Asia Minor in the 3rd century. Her story dates to the 7th century and is retold in the Golden Legend. It is as follows: Dioscurus, the father of Barbara, was a heartless nobleman who had a tower built so that he could lock his daughter away to deter suitors. At first the tower only had two windows; however, Barbara persuaded the workmen to add a third when her father wasn't looking. She also secretly admitted a priest disguised as a doctor, who baptized her to become Christian. When her father returned, Barbara declared that the three windows symbolized the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who ignited her soul. Dioscurus grew enraged and chased his daughter who had fled the tower. She hid in the crevice of a rock; however, a shepherd told her father of her hiding place. Once found, Barbara was dragged out by the hair and beaten by her father who next handed her over to the Roman authorities. She refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was tortured. Miraculously, at the moment of her execution by her father's sword, he was struck by lightning, his body devoured by fire. In this painting, Santa Barbara holds a three-windowed tower in her right hand representing her story, and a large peacock plume in her left hand to symbolize her immortality. She is regarded as the patron saint of armorers and firearms stemming from the theme of sudden death in her story, and is sometimes associated with the warrior saint George.

The Cuzco School (Escuela Cuzquena) was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition which originated following the 1534 Spanish Conquest of the Inca Empire and continued during the Colonial Period in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Though based in Cusco, Peru (the former capital of the Inca Empire), the Cuzco School extended to other cities of the Andes, present day Bolivia, and Ecuador. Today it is regarded as the first artistic center that taught European visual art techniques in the Americas. The primary intention of Cuzco School paintings was to be didactic. Hoping to convert the Incas to Catholicism, the Spanish sent religious artists to Cusco who created a school for the Quechua peoples and mestizos. Interestingly, Cusquena art was created by the indigenous as well as Spanish creoles. In addition to religious subjects, the Cuzco School expressed their cultural pride with paintings of Inca monarchs. Despite the fact that Cuzco School painters had studied prints of Flemish, Byzantine, and Italian Renaissance art, these artists' style and techniques were generally freer than that of their European models.

Provenance: private Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA collection

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Condition Report

Canvas is wavy in places and shows much craquelure commensurate with age. Faint vertical and horizontal impressions from former stretcher bars and some paint losses as shown. Verso shows canvas has darkened with age as well as the darker outlines of the old stretcher bars and old stitched repair on right side. Newer frame, stretcher bars, and wire for suspension.

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