Friday, August 26, 2011

Spanish Colonial Arts - New treasures to be on exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico is rich with hand woven textiles and other treasures. After traveling in Guatemala this past summer, an exhibit like this sounds very enticing. The Spanish Colonial Arts Society recently announced the opening of their new exhibit this fall, New Mexico Collects: Private Treasures, which will be on display at Santa Fe’s Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. The exhibit will open to members at a private reception on September 9, and to the public on September 10, 2011.

This exhibit will feature several extraordinary art pieces from 10 private collections within New Mexico. All but one of the items in the exhibit are historic pieces from Spanish Colonies outside New Mexico, with one commissioned piece by a modern-day Spanish Market artist, Victor Goler.

The largest piece in the exhibition is a magnificent colonial textile, most likely woven in one of the obrajes, or workshops, in the Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region of Alto Peru. Cross-cultural textiles such as this were woven by indigenous weavers following Spanish models and therefore included motifs typically found on both Spanish and indigenous Peruvian textiles. The double-headed Hapsburg eagle derives from well-known heraldic devices of the Spanish world, while the design motifs of bird, flower and tendril ‘arabesques’ survive from pre-conquest Tiahuanaco and Incan cultures. The textile is woven from a mixture of llama, alpaca and sheep wool that was dyed with natural dyes including cochineal and indigo.

A splendid group of ivories from the Spanish Philippines and Portuguese Goa illustrate the extent and influence of the vast Iberian colonial empire. Among these is an exquisitely carved triptych of El Divino Piloto—the Divine Pilot—an image of the Christ Child standing on a cloud and guiding a vessel (the Church) through the turbulent waters of life. The image of the Christ Child is flanked by two angels, carved on the doors of the triptych, which in turn fold in to reveal the original use of the orb as a billiard ball. Believed to have been carved in Asia, the piece was embellished with a silver latch and hinges once it arrived in New Spain. The beauty of the carving as well as the dexterity with which the image is placed inside its circular frame attest to the expertise of this early anonymous artist.

Three ceramic vessels from the 18th century illustrate the convergence of Spanish, Asian and indigenous artistry. Possibly made in Puebla, Mexico, the pieces were thrown on a wheel and glazed in the tin enameled style of Talavera de la Reina, Spain. The form of the jars, however, as well as the motifs and palette are derived from Chinese export porcelains that were brought to New Spain in the Manila galleon trade. Other motifs, such as the quetzal, were introduced by indigenous potters of Mexico. Collected in Mexico in the late 19th century, these vessels are representative of the distinctive blue and white mayolica tradition that developed in Puebla and sustained the potters of Mexico for over two centuries.

The only new art in the exhibit is a large commissioned Bulto by well known Spanish Market artist, Victor Goler. This piece depicts the ascension of Christ, witnessed by the twelve apostles, as he is carried heavenward by two angels. Victor used traditional methods and style, but there is evidence of advanced technical techniques in the composition and design of this amazing carving.

The New Mexico Collects: Private Treasures’ exhibit will remain on display until February 27, 2012. For more information, call The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art at (505) 982-2226 or visit For further information about visiting Santa Fe, call the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-777-2489 or visit

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday (Closed Mondays) from Labor Day to Memorial Day.  (Please note from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Museum is open seven days a week.) 

Photo Credit: Museum of Spanish Colonial Art