The setting is Quito, Ecuador during the colonial period (1534 - 1809) when it was the capital of the geographical entity of the Audiencia of Quito, and part of the vast overseas Spanish colonial empire. The art of this period was almost exclusively at the service of the Catholic Church. One of its most important manifestations, both from a religious and an esthetic standpoint, was those cult images central to Catholic worship, carved of wood and realistically polychromed, which are still to be found in Quito's many colonial churches and convents. These images provide the subject of the following study, the primary purpose of which is to identify their sources and origins.
It has long been known that some of these images were Spanish in origin, while others were executed in Quito by colonial artists. It was possible to identify and date the Spanish images by comparing them with known European works, to assign to known Andalusian artists and workshops, and finally to establish the fact that the majority of these Spanish images were imported from 1580 to circa 1680. Having distinguished the imported from the colonial works, it was then possible to separate Quitenian colonial sculpture into two distinct categories. The first is comprised of those colonial sculptures which were dependent on imported Spanish images for their models, while earlier copies remained faithful to their Spanish prototypes. Later ones were subtly recast in a more contemporary stylistic idiom, a development which revealed a growing freedom and originality on the part of the colonial artist.
The second category is comprised of those sculptures for which engravings and paintings were used as a source. These sculptures, which chronologically belong to the eighteenth century, manifest the artistic maturity and emancipation of the Quitenian sculptor. The earliest of these sculptures were executed principally in conjunction with altarpieces; both the sculptures and the altarpieces were based on engravings, both were cast in a similar baroque style, and were usually fashioned by the same artist. Later, however, as the use of engravings as models for sculpture became a more widespread and common practice, a greater variety of engravings were employed, and the style of Quitenian colonial sculpture changed from the baroque to the rococo. Further, the chronological and stylistic parallel between the original model and the sculpture became less noticeable as Quitenian sculpture revealed an increasing measure of originality. Thus, it can be seen that the emancipation of the colonial artist was another manifestation of that which took place in the political field which culminated in the war for independence.
Level of Degree
UNM Department of Art and Art History
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Douglas Roland George
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Van Deren Coke
Palmer, Gabrielle G.. "The Religious Polychromed Wood Sculpture Of Colonial Quito: Its Origins and Sources." (1973). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/arth_etds/115