Thursday, July 27, 2017

El Llanito: The Loreto Chapel

In our previous post we described the Last Judgment murals at El Llanito. Here we look at the frescoes in the Loreto Chapel adjacent to the church, also attributed to native artist Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre.
The Loreto Chapel, wall one
The Loreto Chapel
The tiny Loreto chapel, or chapel of the Litany, is a late 18th century addition to the church. Currently under restoration, the murals decorating the chapel walls and ceiling are the best preserved of the Pocasangre works at El Llanito. 
   In contrast to the disturbing Last Judgment scenes of the portería, the principal subject of the mural program here is the Litany of the Virgin—a devotional theme we saw portrayed in the painted ceilings of Michoacán (e.g.: at ZacánQuinceo and San Lorenzo). 
The Loreto Chapel, wall two
Gate of Heaven;                                                      Cause of Our Joy;
The wall frescoes depict verses adapted from a widely circulated, illustrated edition of the Litany of Loreto (KlauberAugsburg 1750), each framed by linked cartouches with the accompanying Latin text. 
Virgin of Prayer
Comforter of the Afflicted
Loreto Chapel ceiling detail
As at Atotonilco, the scenes are rendered in a popular baroque style, albeit framed in a more orthodox manner. Reds and blues predominate, enhanced by washes of earth tones.
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color photography courtesy of Robert Jackson and others

Friday, July 21, 2017

El Llanito: The Last Judgment

In a previous post we reviewed the 18th century paintings in the historic church of El Llanito, just outside Dolores Hidalgo—the only other known examples to have been executed by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre, the noted muralist of the nearby Santuario de Atotonilco
Two other mural sequences by the artist are found in adjacent locations: the entry portería to the casa cural and the Loreto Chapel. In this post we focus on the murals that cover the vault and side walls of the portería. 
Large fragments survive of these murals, currently in poor condition because of neglect and exposure. While the overall sequence of the murals and their source are unclear, although unsigned they are believed to be the work of Pocasangre, probably dating from the same period as the Atotonilco murals or possibly a little earlier (c. 1770).  
Painted along the quadripartite vaults, the panels illustrate the End of Days or Last Judgment in dramatic and often bloodcurdling detail. A cautionary display greeting the believer about to enter the building.
They include vivid scenes of burning buildings, sword wielding angels and horned devils herding tormented sinners into the embrace of serpents and the flames of Hell. Animated, bug eyed figures are vividly colored in red, orange and brown hues.

text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
Last Judgment images by Robert Jackson and Niccolò Brooker. 
thank you Robert for bringing these murals to my attention
see some of our earlier posts on Mexican Murals:  CuautinchánXometlaCulhuacánZacualpanOzumbaTlalmanalcoIxmilquilpanMama;  IzucarTree muralsTepeapulcoTulaEpazoyucanZempoalaYecapixtla;

Sunday, July 16, 2017

El Señor de El Llanito

This is one of three posts on the murals and paintings of the historic church of El Llanito, Guanajuato, by the noted colonial mestizo artist Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre.
The venerable church of El Llanito, just outside Dolores Hidalgo, is one of the earliest temples in the region and the shrine of El Señor del Llanito (aka San Salvador de los Afligidos)a miracle working crucifix with a large following among the indigenous Otomí of the areawhose feast day on August is widely celebrated in the region.
   This scarred, 16th century cristo de cañamost likely created in Michoacán, was probably brought to the area by the early missionaries.
El Señor del Llanito, detail
According to legend, in 1559 a passing bullion train heard cries and the muleteers discovered the crucifix beneath a mesquite tree by the river. They took it to the historic local Hacienda de la Erre, where it was placed in the hacienda chapel.
   After it went missing on several occasions, only to be found under the same tree, the hacendado, the Mariscal de Castilla, donated the miraculous object to the villagers where it was kept in a primitive chapel duly erected on the spot. Much later it was installed in the current riverside shrine, built in the 1770s, where the image now rests on a special altar.
  The 1559 event is memorialized in one of several large paintings mounted along the nave, now attributable to the regional painter Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre, who also executed the murals in the entry porteria and the adjacent Loreto chapel.
Other paintings in the nave—all in need of conservation—include a Deposition and a Last Supper.
The Deposition
The Last Supper
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker

Monday, July 10, 2017

El Santuario de Atotonilco, The Battle of Lepanto

This is the first in a series of posts on selected murals and paintings by the gifted 18th century mestizo artist Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre. All are located in the San Miguel de Allende—Dolores Hidalgo corridor of Guanajuato, starting with the famous Santuario de Atotonilco. 
El Santuario de Atotonilco
This rambling pilgrimage church and monastery, located north of San Miguel de Allende, was founded in 1740 as the site of a religious sanctuary for the Oratorian Fathers, under the activist priest Fray Felipe Néri de Alfaro (Padre Alfaro), a leading if somewhat eccentric figure in the religious life of San Miguel.
   The complex was under construction from the 1740s until the end of the century, although “assembled” might be a better term, because of the constant addition of chapels and conventual rooms. However, the main church or Sanctuary, which is dedicated to Jesus the Nazarene, was built and decorated in a sustained burst of creative energy  between 1746 and 1748.
Beyond the carved and painted entry doors lies the densely painted interior, aptly described as a “polychrome grotto” by the Mexican art critic Francisco de la Maza. Many of these murals, hidden beneath coats of whitewash, were uncovered in the mid 1900s and have been the subject of much study and more recent restoration.
   Using the conventions of late baroque painting as a point of departure, the floor-to-ceiling murals are rendered in a colorful, popular but idiosyncratic style.  The dramatic narrative scenes and painted reliefs are integrated with multiple texts composed by the founder Padre Alfaro and exert considerable psychological power. 
   In addition, their special interest for us is that they were executed in large part by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre, probably the best known indigenous muralist of the late colonial period. 
The Rosary Chapel
In this post we focus on what is in our view the most distinctive and indeed unique* mural at Atotonilco, which unfolds across the vault of the diminutive Rosary Chapel, at the eastern end of the nave. 
This heroic four part fresco depicts in two sections the naval battle of Lepanto. This famous 1571 victory, in which a coalition of Christian naval forces routed the Turkish fleet off the coast of Sicily, proved a decisive blow against the advance of Islam in the Mediterranean. 
Curiously, the ships portrayed are galleons rather than galleys with oars that constituted the greater part of the battle fleets on both sides.
The opposing quadrants of the mural refer to the Virgin of the Rosary, to whom the chapel is dedicated. The Christian victory was attributed to her timely intervention, invoked through praying the Rosary.
   October 7th was declared the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary by Pope Pius V on the anniversary of the battle, which explains the exterior and interior views of St. Peter's basilica in Rome.
*To our knowledge, the only other Mexican mural depiction of this battle is part of a portrait of Pope Pius V on one of the pendentives in the church of Santo Domingo in Sombrerete,  Zacatecas:
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
mural views by Niccolò Brooker

Monday, July 3, 2017

San Martin Huaquechula: the cloister murals

This is the second of three posts on the monastery church of San Martín Huaquechula. 
Perched on the southern slopes of the volcano Popocatépetl, San Martín Huaquechula was one of the earliest Franciscan monasteries in the Puebla region.

The Murals
All the surviving early murals of consequence at Huaquechula are found in the upper cloister, located in and around a sequence of deep, painted niches or capillas cut into the massive south wall of the church.

The most striking, although incomplete, fresco shows a penitential procession very similar to that in the church at Huejotzingo—the only other known early mural on the subject. Like the Huejotzingo mural, it probably reflected the activities of, and may have been commissioned by, a local cofradía.
Beneath the painted archway, hooded flagellants in alternating black and white robes walk along a stone path, some carrying crosses and Instruments of the Passion, indicating a Lenten or Easter procession. 

Saints Peter and Paul, prominently featured in the north doorway of the church, appear again in two other painted niches with wooded grottoes and native plants


St. Paul on the Road to Damascus 
Delicately outlined and painted in a range of reds, blues and earth colors, both life-size portraits of the saints are flanked by detailed, miniature scenes from their lives.
The beheading of St Paul
niche of St Peter

St Peter released from prison by an angel
The author at Huaquechula 1989
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry. 
color images by the author and Niccolò Brooker