Viewing Portraits in the Early Modern Hispanic World: A Speculative History Prof Adam Jasienski Art History Research Lecture
In 1651 the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the central-Mexican city of Puebla conducted a trial regarding a bishop’s portraits. According to the proceedings, the portraits were treated as sacred images, and some were even repainted with seraphic wings and other holy attributes. The inquisitors were concerned that the paintings’ viewers might believe that the bishop, a yet-living individual, was a saint. However, their perspective represents just one among the many ways in which the images may have been understood by their viewers. What kinds of beliefs about images might have Puebla’s Spanish, Asian, African, and Nahua inhabitants brought to viewing a portrait of the winged bishop? And what is the benefit of speculating – for that is often how such work must proceed – on such culturally bound, historic forms of seeing?
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