Acquisition of a Lima Painting by the Brooklyn Museum

Lima School
A Merry Company along the Banks of the Rimac River, 1780-1805
Oil on Canvas - 63.5 x 86.4 cm
New York, Brooklyn Museum
Photo : Brooklyn Museum

26/7/12 - Acquisition - New York, Brooklyn Museum - The profits from the sale of Vereshchagin’s Crucifixion have enabled the Brooklyn Museum to acquire last 21 June a new painting by an artist from the Lima school produced in the late 18th century, corresponding to the American colonial period. Created in 1542 by Charles V, the vice-kingdom of Peru came to an end with the country’s independence in 1824. The Bourbon reforms in the 18th century split the territory, creating the vice-kingdom of New Granada in the north in 1793 and the vice-kingdom of Rio de la Plata in the south in 1776.
The painting represents A Merry Company along the Banks of the Rimac River (ill.) ; a refined social gathering, set in a wealthy property, embodies the pleasurable life of the Spanish in America where they made their fortunes breeding cattle, mining silver or growing sugar, coffee, cocoa and tabacco. This wealth is evoked by the silver in the foreground, the carriages in the background and, of course, the many servants ; the painter represented a very mixed gathering which includes Spaniards, Africans, indigenous persons and creoles (Europeans born in the colonies). The staging recalls a conversation piece but the groups are spead out in an awkward way, with no real transition from one to the next and with varying proportions : on the right a woman, with a child in her lap, is getting ready with the help of her servants ; on the left a man is courting. Dancers, a horseman, a man hiding under his coat...all of these figures seem to be superimposed on the canvas. In the distance, a lone silhouette is bathing, a group of persons is conversing.

It is unusual to see a painting illustrating the private life of the Spanish in America and the luxury of the colonial period ; the works known from this period are in fact mainly religious. The Lima school, overshadowed by that of Cuzco in the 17th century, then reflourished in the 18th, notably with works for the churches in the city, such as the cycle of The Life of Saint Pierre Nolasque painted by Julian Jayo (active 1760-1811) for the cloister of the Convent of La Merced. However, official portraiture developed at the end of the century at the court of the vice-king with artists such as Jose del Pozo (circa 1757-1830), marking the transition between the colonial and the republican period. The artist of the painting acquired by the Brooklyn Museum remains anonymous but the work evokes the life of colonial society and a less official genre of painting.

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, lundi 30 juillet 2012

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