Paintings are often considered the epitome of creativity. They are not only used to capture memorable moments and events but also showcase the painter's ability to reproduce. Over the recent past paintings have gained prominence with scholars and historians evaluating their value to the storage of memory. Amart's collection is one such collection of paintings that have been used to study the history of the new world. The collection, however, was partially effective in reproducing the various racial groups that appeared in New World at the end of the eighteenth century.
Amart's collection, for instance, indicates that the relationship between Spaniards and Indians produced a Mestizo. This assertion is also reflected in later paintings which indicated that Mestizos were a product of a relationship between Spaniards and Indians. Besides that, the other similarity between Amart's collection and later paintings pertains to the relationship between Spaniards and the blacks which resulted in the production of a Mulato or Mulatta. The other similarity which is conveyed by the paintings pertains to the hierarchy. Throughout the century, the combination of the Spaniards Indians and the blacks occupied the top of the hierarchy. According to Deans-Smith, the hierarchy represented the difference in race status and class. The Amart's collection for instance highlights the Spaniard couples wearing expensive clothes while the lowest combination-between blacks- has the individuals wearing clothes which appear less fancy and hence less expensive. The difference in clothing and appearance in general highlights the variations in status. The trends echo the conditions of the new world towards the end of the eighteenth century. According to Katzew, the paintings produced in New Spain by the end of the eighteenth century were much varied as compared to those produced in the earlier part of the century. However, the hierarchy and racial differences were still well pronounced. For instance, most images depicting blacks showed them on the back of horses or taking part in the plantations. On the other hand paintings of the Spaniards showed them relaxing. The difference in activities carried out by the races still reflected the hierarchical differences which were in existence. In essence, the collection from both periods indicates how the Spaniards were the rulers of the land while the other races were the subjects.
The collection, however, failed to capture the racial group changes which appeared towards the end of the eighteenth century. In other words, there was an increased number of racial categories towards the end of the century. The fact that Amart's collection was produced in the earlier part of the century implies that these changes were not captured hence the variations between Amart's collections and later paintings. For instance, in Amart's collection, the marriage between a Spaniard and Mestiza results in the birth of a Quateron or a de mestizo. This, however, is not similar to the revelation of other new world artists of the late eighteenth century. According to Katzew, a marriage between a Spaniard and a Mestiza resulted in the birth of a Castizo. In addition to that, the difference in terminologies assigned to the relationships was confusing. Apart from the difference in terminologies assigned to the various products, the number of Castas depicted in later paintings is much varied as compared to that of Amart. Specifically, later paintings highlight more Castas as compared to Amarts. For instance, there are later Castas such as the albinos which referred to the offspring of Spaniard and Morisca couples. These facts clearly indicate that Armats collection did not effectively reproduce the racial groups which appeared in the new world towards the end of the eighteenth century.
Official Artistic Representation
If Amat's series was an official artistic representation of the official categories it would not have been accurate when applied to the colonial population. According to Deans-Smith, the castas represented the various racial mixtures which emerged as a result of the relationships between the Spaniards and the Indians and the Blacks. However as highlighted above, the Amat's series did not take into account numerous factors regarding the colonial populations. For instance, later paintings depicted various factors such as the economic activities and the social classes of the individuals.
In addition to the lack of social classes, the racial groups depicted in Amart's series were fewer as compared to that contained in other paintings. For instance, the series does not mention the existence of albinos in the casta which is represented in later paintings. This is a clear implication that the collection could have proved ineffective to those who may have desired to know the racial composition of New Spain during the period.
The names assigned to the different combinations were also varied and not standardized. As indicated by Katzew the casta paintings bore different titles borrowed from the slang languages used in the streets. In other words, many of the names were not legally approved which then implied that one had to rely on the images to determine the differences. For example in Amart's series of paintings, the relationship between a black and a Spaniard resulted in the birth of a Mulato. On the contrary, later paintings, as indicated by Katzew, resulted in the production of Mulatta. Despite the fact that blacks and Spaniards were the dominant races during the period there was no agreed upon terms to refer to their offspring. With such huge variations and inconsistencies in naming one could not get a clear image of the people who existed in the colonies during the period.
In conclusion, it is clear that Amart's series would not have provided a clear picture of the colonies towards the end of the eighteenth century. In as much as the paintings depicted important factors such as the hierarchy of class and race, factors such as the emergence of new casta made it difficult to reflect the changes which took place towards the end of the century. Apparently, the changes which took place within the short period made the facts represented by the images almost untrue. In addition to the passage of time, the lack of a standardized naming system to address the emerging races made it almost impossible to get a clear image of the colonies during the time. In other words, the terminologies utilized varied between the painters. For instance, the offspring of black and Spaniard relationships were referred to as Mulato or Mullata depending on the period when the paintings were produced.
Bennett, Herman L. Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640. Indiana University Press, 2005.
Cope, R. Douglas. The limits of racial domination: Plebeian society in colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
Cummins, Thomas BF. "Casta Paintings: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico." (2006): 185-189.
Deans-Smith, Susan. "Creating the Colonial Subject: Casta Paintings, Collectors, and Critics in Eighteenth-Century Mexico and Spain." Colonial Latin American Review 14, no. 2 (2005): 169-204.
Katzew, Ilona. Casta painting: Images of race in eighteenth-century Mexico. Yale University Press, 2005.
Natalia Majluf, ed. Los Cuadros del Mestizaje del Virrey Amat: la representacion etnografica en el Peru colonial. Lima: Museo de Arte de Lima, 1999. Power Point.
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