Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici | The Unique Journey of a Book

September 16, 2017

The much-anticipated book Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici was just released! It accompanies a major exhibition opening soon at LACMA and co-organized with Fomento Cultural Banamex, A.C. in Mexico City.

Curators inspecting works in the sacristy of Mexico City's Cathedral

This special book was in the making for years. It all started in 2011, when Ilona Katzew, LACMA’s curator and department head of Latin American art, proposed organizing an exhibition on 18th-century Mexican painting, a field rich in images that remained grossly overlooked. 

Left to right: Luisa Elena Alcalá (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid); Ilona Katzew (LACMA); Paula Mues Orts (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía, Mexico); Jaime Cuadriello (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

To this end, she approached three colleagues from Mexico and Spain to join her in this adventure: Jaime Cuadriello, Paula Mues Orts, and Luisa Elena Alcalá.

Over the last six years the co-curators traveled exhaustively throughout Mexico in cars, buses, and small propeller planes, camera, flashlight, and measuring tape in hand.

Left: Catedral de San Luis Potosí, Mexico; right: convent in Morelia, Mexico

They visited over 100 churches, convents, public institutions, and private collections in more than 30 cities in Mexico, Europe, and the United States.

José de Páez, The Virgin of Guadalupe, Christ Carrying the Cross, Saints, and Souls in Purgatory, c. 1770–80, Templo de San Blas, Pabellón de Hidalgo, Aguascalientes

They pulled works out of dusty closets and treaded through largely forgotten places that were once grand.

Andrés de Islas, The Divine Shepherdess and the Students of Saint Francis de Sales, 1783, Congregación del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

What they discovered was an unimaginable wealth of images, large and small.

Miguel Cabrera, The Miracle of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and the Novice Nicholas Celestini, 1766, Templo de Loreto, Mexico City

Some paintings were well conserved; others were on the brink of vanishing due to inclement conditions.

Juan Rodríguez Juárez, Patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1708, Templo y convento de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Mexico City

Some were nearly lost to history, tucked away in inacessible places.

Left: Restoration of Interior of the Church of Corpus Christi and View of the Main Altar (attributed to Nicolás Enríquez), c. 1724, Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real de Madrid; right: LACMA conservator Joseph Fronek and Spanish conservator Rocío Bruquetas Galán inspect a painting at the Museo de América, Madrid

While others were restored especially for the exhibition and are published in the book.

Francisco Antonio Vallejo, Saint Teresa of Ávila Receives the Habit from Our Lady of Carmel, 1764, Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (choir), San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Yet all were teeming with life.

Francisco Martínez, The Blessing of the Table, 1722, Convento e Iglesia del Carmen, Toluca

This stunning book brings their discoveries to light and includes many works photographed for the very the first time.

Co-written by the four curators and edited by Ilona Katzew, the 512-page book is chock-full of new scholarship and images. And one more thing: it is also available in a Spanish edition!

Buy your own copy of Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici, at the LACMA Store, and be sure to come by when the exhibition opens at LACMA on November 19.