Thursday, March 01, 2012

A New Image of St. John Neumann

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Rescuing Souls from Purgatory,
17th century, Cuzco School

During Spain's period of rule over much of Latin America, the religious artists of Peru developed a distinct style known to historians as the Cuzco School. Cusqueña art emerged from a melding of Spanish and indigenous talents, and many of its greatest exponents were Quechua in origin, though Creole Spaniards also participated as well. Painters often looked to prints of European religious art for inspiration, but with a free hand and an almost Byzantine sense of stylized solemnity. Lavish gold leaf and flattened perspectives are common; the gold leafing itself is strongly reminiscent of the Spanish and Spanish colonial tradition of polychromed estofado sculpture, with its rich undercoat of gilt.

I was intrigued to discover that the Cuzco Style is alive and well in, of all places, Gaithersburg, Maryland, where a large painting of St. John Neumann done in this traditional style by the members of a missionary parish in Peru ornaments St. John Neumann Catholic Church. It is an intriguing melding of a "modern" saint with a venerable iconographic style, and reminds us vividly of the deep roots of the Catholic faith in the Americas. I do not know much else about this piece but would be glad if our readers could pass any further information onto me.

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