The human body in religious painting in the Andes of Cusco

In many of the paintings covered in this article, the human body plays a secondary role in clothing, accoutrements, pose and other defining attributes of one’s identity. Indeed, as many of the paintings of the avocations of the Virgin Mary, Saints and archangels have shown us.

Some Facts of Cusqueñian Paintings:

  • Cusqueñian Artists took great care in the deployment of patterns, textures, and small details when representing their clothes and accessories.
  • Clothing often took center stage in these paintings and enabled viewers to easily identify particular religious figures based on what they wore, what they were holding in their hands and how they were posed.  
  • There is an aesthetic emphasis on clothing May relate to widespread Andean Beliefs in the sacredness of cloth, which has roots in the pre-Columbian era and continued through the colonial period and into the present Day.
  • Rarely do facial features or Expressions play a roll in facilitating one´s interpretation of cusqueñan paintings From this Period.
  • The few instances where the human body and face were accorded special attention are in depictions of martyrdom in which the body is subjected to different forms of torture or  disfigurement

These examples are important for providing a rare window onto the different ways that Andean artists dealt explicitly with the human form!

 The Local painter is Cusco also merit attention in light of the distinct artistic climate within which artists worked on the other hand  in Europe, artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods relied on human models that posed  in the nude and classical sculptures or plaster casts that rendered the body with close attention  to proportion and Human Anatomy some of them even visited Morgues in order to  explore the inner workings  of the human body to achieve anatomical perfection in the depiction of the human form in an infinite variety of positions.

On the Andes  however copies of Greek and Roman sculptures we’re not readly  available to artists Aunt no documental are pictorial evidence exists that would suggest that artists utilized  live models. Ended nudity in colonial andean art is almost completely absent with a few exceptions , including the paintings of Mary Magdalene and the partial nudity of Agatha  of Sicily
the paintings in this section demonstrate the different strategies that andean  artists used in depicting the human body,  in ways that would convey the nature of the martyrdom while still staying within the bounds of propriety.

Diego de La Puente was a Belgian painted who travelled on a Jesuit mission to Peru in the early 17th century to pursue an artistic career in the viceroyalty
This painting illustrates the gruesome martyrdom of Saint Andrew the Apostle.
The Saints Edmund and John AR classified as cephalophores or head careers,  who hold their own heads in their hands evidence of the fact they were martyred through beheading
St. Agatha of Sicily was a saint who was martyred  in the third Century of her steadfast commitment to the faith

To learn moer about the history of Paintings from the Andes in Cusco city, feel free tou join our daily free walking tours in Cusco and Lima