Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation examines a series of nine paintings depicting the battles of Alexander Farnese in Flanders created by the Cuzco School of Painters in eighteenth-century Peru. This research asks why and how paintings depicting sixteenth-century European battles were meaningful in the eighteenth century. Due to an absence of archival documentation on the authorship, production and patronage of the series, the research method is contextual. Starting with a formal and iconographic analysis of the paintings centered on a comparison between the paintings and the engravings upon which they are based, differences in the use of space and the conspicuousness of individual elements representing opposing forces are studied. These issues are then regarded contextually by way of an examination of the visual characteristics of the Cuzco School, the history behind the creation of the original engravings and the political and social circumstances extant at the time of the creation of the paintings.
Building on previous scholarship, this research shows that attribution to the Cuzco School of painters is likely correct given the formal qualities of the paintings. It is possible that the stylistic characteristics of the Cuzco School, which became very popular, served as a marker of place within the Empire in colonial America.
One of the main contributions of the dissertation is the identification of a seventeenth-century biography of Alexander Farnese, De Bello Bélgico as the book in which the engravings that served as the sources for the paintings were published. These engravings served as the basis for all of the depictions of Alexander in colonial Latin America. Finally, the paintings were created during the reign of the first Bourbon king of Spain and served to foster a sense of continuity at a time of transition. The series would have been meaningful in eighteenth- century Chile due to its militarization, which continued throughout the colonial period. The use of space and the clarity with which opposing forces are depicted in the paintings left no moral, military or political ambiguities regarding the mission of the greater Spanish Empire.
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