Quito School

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La Virgen alada del Apocalipsis ("Winged Virgin of the Apocalypse") by Miguel de Santiago (17th century) Virgen alada del Apocalipsis Miguel de Santiago.jpg
La Virgen alada del Apocalípsis ("Winged Virgin of the Apocalypse") by Miguel de Santiago (17th century)
Retrato de una senora principal con su negra esclava ("Portrait of a Quitena Matron with Her Black Slave") by Vicente Alban, 1783. Retrato de una senora principal con su negra esclava por Vicente Alban.jpg
Retrato de una señora principal con su negra esclava ("Portrait of a Quiteña Matron with Her Black Slave") by Vicente Albán, 1783.

The Quito School (Escuela Quiteña) is a Latin American artistic tradition that constitutes essentially the whole of the professional artistic output developed in the territory of the Royal Audience of Quito — from Pasto and Popayán in the north to Piura and Cajamarca in the south — during the Spanish colonial period (1542-1824). [1] It is especially associated with the 17th and 18th centuries and was almost exclusively focused on the religious art of the Catholic Church in the country. [2] Characterized by a mastery of the realistic and by the degree to which indigenous beliefs and artistic traditions are evident, these productions were among of the most important activities in the economy of the Royal Audience of Quito. [3] Such was the prestige of the movement even in Europe that it was said that King Carlos III of Spain (1716–1788), referring to one of its sculptors in particular, opined: "I am not concerned that Italy has Michelangelo; in my colonies of America I have the master Caspicara". [4]

Popayán City in Cauca, Colombia

Popayán is the capital of the Colombian department of Cauca. It is located in southwestern Colombia between the Western Mountain Range and Central Mountain Range. It has a population of 258,653 people, an area of 483 km2, is located 1760 meters above sea level, and has an average temperature of 18 °C.

Piura Place in Peru

Piura is a city in northwestern Peru located in the Sechura Desert on the Piura River. It is the capital of the Piura Region and the Piura Province. Its population was 484,475 as of 2017.

Cajamarca Place in Peru

Cajamarca, also known by the Cajamarca Quechua name, Kashamarka, is the capital and largest city of the Cajamarca Region as well as an important cultural and commercial center in the northern Andes. It is located in the northern highlands of Peru at approximately 2,750 m (8,900 ft) above sea level in the valley of the Mashcon river. Cajamarca had an estimated population of about 226,031 inhabitants in 2015, making it the 13th largest city in Peru.



The Quito School originated in the school of Artes y Oficios, founded in 1552 by the Franciscan priest Jodoco Ricke, who together with Friar Pedro Bedon transformed the San Andrés seminary, where the first indigenous artists were trained. As a cultural expression, it is the result of a long process of acculturation between indigenous peoples and Europeans, and it is one of the richest expressions of miscegenation (mestizaje) and of syncretism, in which the participation of the vanquished Indian is seemingly of minor importance as compared to the dominant European contribution. [5]

<i>Mestizo</i> Term to denote a person with European and Native American blood

Mestizo or mestiza is a term historically used in Spain, Spanish America and the Philippines that originally referred to a person of combined European and Indigenous American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category for mixed-race castas that evolved during the Spanish Empire. Although broadly speaking, Mestizo means someone of mixed European/indigenous heritage, and usually for someone considered a plebeian, the term did not have a fixed meaning in the colonial period. It was a formal label for individuals in official documentation, such as censuses, parish registers, Inquisition trials, and other matters. Individuals were labeled by priests and royal officials as mestizos, but the term was also used for self identification.

Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture as well as politics.


As a product of cultural syncretism and miscegenation, the works of the Quito School are characterized by the combination and adaptation of European and Indigenous features. In its development, it reflected the styles prevailing in each period of Spain and thus contains renaissance and mannerist elements. During its height, it was eminently baroque, concluding with a short rococo period leading to an incipient neoclassicism until the transition to the republican period. The Quito School also incorporated Flemish, Italian, and Moorish influences.

Miscegenation is a term given to the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation, particularly mixing that is perceived to negatively impact the purity of a particular race or culture. Anti-miscegenation is a prominent theme of racial supremacist movements, including white supremacy.

Renaissance European cultural period, 14th to 17th century

The Renaissance was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries. In addition to the standard periodization, proponents of a long Renaissance put its beginning in the 14th century and its end in the 17th century. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the Middle Ages.

Mannerism style of European art

Mannerism, also known as Late Renaissance, is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spreading by about 1530 and lasting until about the end of the 16th century in Italy, when the Baroque style largely replaced it. Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century.

One of the common characteristics of the school is the technique of encarnado ("flesh-colored") — the simulation of the color of the flesh of the (European) human body — that makes the skin of sculptures appear more natural. Once the piece was perfectly cut and sanded, an artisan covered the wood with several layers of gesso with glue. Each layer was highly polished to achieve a perfectly smooth finish. Next, color was applied in various transparent layers, allowing an optical mix of overlapping colors. This began with the colors of shadows (blue, green, ocher), then light colors were applied (white, pink, yellow). and finally highlight colors were added (orange and red to cheeks, knees, and elbows of children; and dark blue, green, and violet for wounds and bruises of Christ or for stubble on a beardless figure).

Gesso paint mixture

Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.

Other typical characteristics include:

Gold leaf art medium

Gold leaf is gold that has been hammered into thin sheets by goldbeating and is often used for gilding. Gold leaf is available in a wide variety of karats and shades. The most commonly used gold is 22-karat yellow gold.

The features indicating its indigenous roots include:

Notable artists


Vicente Albán painter active in Quito in the second half of the 18th century

Vincente Albán was an Ecuadorian painter, member of the Quito School, noted for his idealized paintings of indigenous and Hispanic American-born people in their native outfits. These paintings display a variety of social classes and information on the clothing of the time. Exploring Colonial Hispanic American culture, his work was commissioned by José Celestino Mutis, who wanted to bring local flora into the mind of the country. The paintings were created via an oil on canvas technique. Paintings of this era such as this were often used as a method of showing American territory and the resources it provides. People shown in Albáns work were shown wearing gold and silver to demonstrate the continents wealth.

Isabel de Santiago Ecuadorian painter and draftswoman, belonging to the Quito School of art of the 17th century

Isabel de Cisneros was a Spanish colonial painter born in the colony of Quito (Ecuador). She was the daughter of Miguel de Santiago, one of the most famous colonial Quito School painters. Often referred to as Isabel de Santiago, she however identified herself by Cisneros, a name she inherited from her mother.


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Décima Ten-line stanza of poetry

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Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, Quito church building in Quito, Ecuador

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  1. Ximena Escudero-Albornoz and Ximena Escudero de Terán. América y España en la escultura colonial quiteña: historia de un sincretismo. Ediciones del Banco de los Andes (1992). ISBN   9978-82-293-3, ISBN   978-9978-82-293-7
  2. Handelsman, Michael (2000), Culture and Customs of Ecuador (Series: Culture and Customs of Latin America and the Caribbean; Series editor: Peter Standish); Westport, Connecticut/London: Greenwood Press, pg 125.
  3. Christiana Renate Borchart de Moreno. La Audiencia de Quito: aspectos económicos y sociales (siglos XVI-XVIII). Editorial Abya Yala (1998). ISBN   9978-72-084-7, ISBN   978-9978-72-084-4
  4. Rivas, Julio (2012), Un sitio llamado San Francisco; Revista Clave!, Nov-Dec issue. [No me preocupa que Italia tenga a Miguel Ángel, en mis colonias de América yo tengo al maestro Caspicara.]
  5. Ximena Escudero Albornoz and José María Vargas Arévalo. Historia y crítica del Arte Hispanoamericano, Real Audiencia de Quito: (siglos XVI, XVII y XVIII). Editorial Abya Yala (2000). ISBN   9978-04-562-7, ISBN   978-9978-04-562-6

See also