Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Oaxaca. Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan: St Christopher mural

For the final post in our ongoing series on the art of the great Dominican priory of Yanhuitlan, we focus in this post on a striking fresco of St. Christopher standing above the above the stairway in the convento—the only intact mural to survive there.  This is an unusual location for this subject as St Christopher is more commonly found in the church by or above the north doorway.

Carrying the Christ Child on his shoulder, the bearded saint strides from the stormy torrent, observed by a diminutive friar holding out a lantern—a portrait, according to local lore, of Fray Bernardino de Minaya, the pioneering Oaxacan missionary. Notwithstanding its awkward bodily proportions and the rigid folds of the saint’s drapery and pantaloons, the mural projects an iconic force.

text ©2007 & 2021 Richard D, Perry
image by the author

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Michoacan. Tzintzuntzan, the upper cloister murals.

Following up on our post describing the lower cloister murals, additional scenes, similarly framed in the upper cloister depict episodes from the life and miracles of the perennial Franciscan favorite St. Anthony of Padua with figures in 18th century dress—probably the most complete series portraying the saint known in Mexican mural art, or any other medium for that matter.

The apparition to St Anthony of the Christ Child

St Anthony healing the sick

The Conversion of Ezzelino da Romano

The Truth from the lips of a small child

Donkey adoring the Blessed Sacrament

St Francis appears to St Anthony in Arles?

A Franciscan Vocation saved by St Anthony?

The Return of a Book of Psalms to St Anthony?

for our other posts on the mural at Tzintzuntzan search the blog with that name

text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Mexico. Purificación Teotihuacan: the painted nave

Purificación Teotihuacan
This imposing barrio chapel of San Juan Teotihuacan, close to the celebrated pyramids, is noted for its iconic image of La Candelaria as well as its sculpted stone facade and colonial carved crosses.
facade detail
the evangelists Luke and Mark
But our interest here is in the painted walls and ceilings of the church interior.  The center ceiling is the most prominent, featuring large, striking images of the Four Evangelists, each with their outsized winged companions—the Tetramorph. The portraits are drawn in popular style in vivid shades of red, orange and greenish gray.
Sts Matthew & John
The vault nearest the sanctuary centers on an image of La Candelaria, accompanied by musical angels and elaborate glorias linked by floral ornament, in tones of red, blue and gold.
musical angels
St Jerome                           St Ambrose
Portraits of the Doctors of the Church in similar style appear on the upper nave walls.
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
images by Niccolo Brooker and ELTB.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tlalnepantla: the convento murals

In a previous post we visited the grand early Franciscan monastery at Tlalnepantla with its fine early sculpted atrium cross. Here is a look at its few surviving 16th century murals:

The Convento and its Murals
Behind the long, colonnaded porteria, lies the airy, stone flagged cloister, with its Tuscan arcades and sculpted Gothic doorways.  Although the walks and arches have been assiduously whitewashed, revealing little trace of early narrative murals, some of the surrounding painted grotesque friezes and framing panels have survived, many in excellent if much restored condition.
Mostly rendered in a warm, sepia grisaille, they also include remnant portraits of Franciscan saints, friars and bishops, as well as fragmentary details of frescoes that once adorned the corner niches.
St Clare

Dove of the Holy Spirit with stars

text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
images by the author, Niccolo Brooker and ELTB with appreciation 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Morelos. The Yautepec murals 2.

This is the second of two posts on the murals of Asunción Yautepec in the state of Morelos.
The Convento Murals
Like most all the Morelos conventos, the corridors of the cloister walks and adjoining rooms at Yautepec were lavishly covered with painted friezes, dadoes and artesonado ceilings with passages of intricate decorative coffering interspersed with Dominican rosettes, sacred monograms and landscapes. 
   Bands of grotesque ornament fill the friezes entwined with acanthus and vines, festooned with garlands and animated with birds, flowers, cherubs and mythical figures—mostly in monochrome but accented with faded burgundy and blue.
The Cloister Murals
Around the cloister a grand series of narrative murals survive, albeit partially. They comprise an extraordinary compendium of portraits of Dominican saints, martyrs, bishops, and even popes, along the cloister walks and primarily on the interior piers of the cloister arcades. 
   All the figures are portrayed in conventionally dignified Renaissance poses, richly robed and bearing crucifixes as well as their traditional attributes and symbols. Each is identified by Latin inscription and elegantly framed with ornate Plateresque columns and arches. 
St Francis                  St Lucy
Notables include Saints Dominic and Francis, along with eminent Dominicans  like Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Peter Martyr. Popes Pius V and Benedict XI appear along with the Church Fathers Ambrose and Jerome, as well as lesser known figures like St. Elmo, and St. Anthony of Florence.
Only two female saints, Lucy and Catherine of Siena, are portrayed.
      St.  Elmo    St.  Anthony of Florence
St Benedict .                     St Dominic.
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color images by the author, Niccolo Brooker and others.

Please visit our earlier pages on the murals of Morelos: TlayacapanCuernavacaTlaquiltenangoOaxtepec TlaltizapanAtlatlahuacanTepoztlan

Friday, April 24, 2020

Morelos. the Yautepec murals 1

Asunción Yautepec is one of the least known of the Dominican missions in Morelos, although it was the second to be founded after Oaxtepec.  Enclosed by a large atrium, Yautepec has a modest mission, but of massive construction. 
   The church is very plain inside and out. Although dated 1567 by a plaque, the facade is neoclassical in design—a post colonial reworking.  Aside from a colorful painted under choir of uncertain date, the majority of the murals are found in the adjacent convento. These are mostly monochrome and date from the 16th century.  
   This first post looks at the church murals, the second at the frescoes in the convento.

The Underchoir Murals
The only remaining mural of note inside the church is the painted, ribbed ceiling of the sotocoro or under choir.  This elaborate, mudéjar inspired pattern incorporates a series of complex ornamental roundels or “bosses,” many of heraldic design. Some feature the Christic monogram IHS, and others include Augustinian insignia, lions and eagles, and a Coronation of the Virgin—all linked by broad, multi striped bands in predominantly red and blue hues.


text © 2020 Richard D. Perry. color images by the author, Niccolo Brooker and others.
Please visit our earlier pages on the murals of Morelos: TlayacapanCuernavacaTlaquiltenangoOaxtepec Tlaltizapan;

Monday, April 13, 2020

Puebla. La Casa del Dean murals:The Friezes

The Friezes
As noted earlier, one of the most intriguing aspects of the  Casa del Dean murals is the extraordinary friezes that frame the processions above and below, in particular the various animals portrayed.
   Although overall, the friezes follow the traditional grotesque pattern seen in the monasteries: stylized forms of flowers, vines and cornucopia, angels and mythical beasts, etc, elements like native birds, monkeys, serpents and even wild men, add piquant touches to the conventional designs. 
However, it is the array of anthropomorphic animals displayed in the cartouches embedded in the friezes that especially capture the viewer’s attention. Most of those shown are native to the Americas. All are portrayed seated, some on traditional petate thrones, and engaged in a variety of indigenous ritual activities —writing, singing, playing musical instruments, and drinking chocolate or pulque.
The physical portrayal of these creatures with their pre hispanic emblematic significance, added a powerful layer of meaning for the indigenous viewer. 
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry.  
 images © Juan Carlos Varillas and Niccolo Brooker. 
principal source: La Casa del Dean...New World Imagery in a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Mural Cycle Penny C. Morrill. 2014. U. of Texas Press