The Colonial Andes
Tapestries and Silverwork, 1530–1830
September 29–December 12, 2004
Accompanied by a catalogue
The arrival of the Spanish in 1532 in South America dramatically transformed the Andean cultural landscape, changing societies that had evolved over thousands of years within less than one generation. The arts, however, continued to thrive amid the upheavals, and they preserved an unspoken dialogue between Andean and European artistic traditions. This exhibition of more than 175 works of art focuses on two uniquely rich and inherently Andean art forms that flourished during the colonial period, presenting the finest examples of Inca and colonial garments and tapestries, as well as ritual and domestic silverwork. Their juxtaposition, together with a select group of important colonial paintings and other related objects, drawn from museums, churches, and private collections in South America, Europe, and the United States, documents the creative vitality of the complex Andean culture that developed after the Conquest.
Among the highlights of the exhibition is a group of recently discovered silver objects and little-known tapestries from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Featured are a number of unusually detailed silver vessels, including one of a number portraying scenes of sixteenth-century Andean life. These document the transition from Inca to viceregal style—that were recovered from the Spanish fleet vessel Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which was shipwrecked off the coast of Florida in 1622 (Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, Key West, and private collections). The exhibition also presents a tapestry of The Creation of Eve, from a rare series produced by native Andean weavers under the patronage of the Jesuit Order. Vividly illustrating Old Testament scenes, the series demonstrates the introduction of European narratives into the culture of the Andes (Círculo de Armas, Buenos Aires).