Saturday, March 7, 2015

Understating Creoles Through Casta Paintings

Studying Spanish America and the social hierarchy they developed?  Spanish born Peninsulares were on top and just below them were Creoles, the sons and daughters of their European parents.

But a series of  paintings in the mid 19th century cast doubts on the racial purity of the Creoles. Known as the Casta paintings, they portray the intermingling of European and native Americans.
And, according to this interesting essay by Professor Susan Deans-Smith, some "feared the paintings would send back to Spain the damaging message that creoles, the Mexican-born children of Spanish parents, were of mixed blood. For Arce y Miranda, the paintings would only confirm European assumptions of creole inferiority."

These paintings could serve as a great lesson about the power of images and how POV changes the way different audiences see the images.

As Professor Deans-Smith notes "regardless of what patrons and artists may have intended casta paintings to convey, viewers responded to them according to their own points of reference and contexts.

Here's how the Yale University Press defines the Casta paintings:
The pictorial genre known as casta painting is one of the most compelling forms of artistic expression from colonial Mexico. Created as sets of consecutive images, the works portray racial mixing among the main groups that inhabited the colony: Indians, Spaniards, and Africans. In this beautifully illustrated book, Ilona Katzew places casta paintings in their social and historical context, showing for the first time the ways in which the meanings of the paintings changed along with shifting colonial politics.
Thanks to Bram Hubbell for tweeting the link.

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