These sculptures come
from churches and convents and were made during the Colonial period (16th,
17th and 18th centuries). They tend to be workshop productions and works
of unknown authors that present certain uniformity. However, the schools
that are differentiated are those from Quito and Cuzco, of great influence
They are made from noble woods such as cedar and can measure anywhere
from 27 cm to 1.7 m high in the case of life-size images. They are representations
of virgins, saints, angels, archangels, crucified Christs, Child Jesus
and nativity sets.
They are polychrome, usually over gold or silver plating, with specific
colors: the angels and the Child Jesus are a bright pink imitating the
skin, archangels are dressed in Roman clothing with floral motifs of varied
colors, the Virgin wears a blue or green cloak and Saint Joseph a red
cloak, etc. The faces, hands, and feet are of a pearly pink with a brilliant,
and sometimes matte, appearance. The garments often show floral and vegetable
The majority is done in a single piece. Some sculptures can have cloth
garments over the sculpted garment or on an unsculpted body (sometimes,
they have lost their suits and have the aspect of dolls).The garments
can also be of glued, polychromed and quilted cloth.
Sometimes the sculptures have pedestals and silver accessories such as
crowns or wings and can have adornments of beads or natural hair. Some
have cold, frigid faces since they are made from lead masks painted a
skin color and glass eyes.
Deserving honorable mention are the sculptures from the Jesuit and Franciscan
missions on the borders of Argentina (Misiones province), Bolivia (Chiquitania
and Moxos), Paraguay (states of Misiones and Itapua), western Brazil and
northeast Uruguay. Although some sculptures do not differ from the rest
of colonial sculptures, there were local workshops with indigenous handwork
that sculpted or carved images with a special ingenuous and popular air
due to their simplicity, lack of proportions, and sober sense of form.
These images allow
us to understand the formation of Latin American thought and artistic
development since there were local contributions. The lack of consciousness
with regard to their importance, insufficient inventories and safety measures
in museums or churches pose a serious threat.
Many were part of altarpieces, complex compositions with paintings and
sculptures that covered the walls over altars, which are dismantled and
destroyed. Thefts are frequent especially in zones set aside such as ancient
Recently, there have been two sculptures stolen from the Templo Parroquial
del Conjunto Misionero de Santos Cosme y Damian (state of Misiones in
Paraguay). In Colombia, in 1998, 136 cultural goods were taken from the
Museum of Colonial Art in Bogota, of which 39 were quiteñas sculptures.
Thanks to the inventory and the Metropolitan Police it was possible to
recover some of these figures in August 2000.
- Alfaro, Alfonso
& Maquívar, María del Consuelo. Corpus aureum: escultura religiosa.
Mexico City, Museo Franz Mayer, 1995.
Ximena. América y España en la escultura colonial quiteña: historia
de un sincretismo. Quito, Ediciones del Banco de los Andes, 1997.
- Gutiérrez, Ramón
(coord.). Pintura, escultura y artes útiles de Iberoamérica,
1500-1825. Madrid, Ediciones Cátedra, S.A, 1995.
- Querejazu, Pedro
(ed.). Las Misiones Jesuíticas de Chiquitos. La Paz, Fundación
BHN/ La Papelera SA., 1995.
- Los siglos
de oro en los virreinatos de América: 1550-1700. Madrid, Sociedad
Estatal para la Conmemoración de los Centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos