Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Sebastián López de Arteaga. Oil on canvas, 226 x 156.5 cm. Ca.1643. Ciudad de México, Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA.

The early decades of the seventeenth century witnessed the spread across Europe of a movement in painting, spurred by artists such as Caravaggio, which advocated reality as the basic subject-matter in painting and used the chiaroscuro technique as the chief instrument for describing this “reality”. This was Naturalism, one of the most international trends in painting. The language of Naturalism was disseminated across Latin America during the middle decades of the century and interested most of the painters who were active at the time.

This section shows two facets of the phenomenon. Doubting Thomas is structured around a composition that is similar to models used by followers of Caravaggio active in Rome in the second decade of the century, such as Ribera. It was painted in 1643 by Sebastián López de Arteaga, a Sevillian pupil of Zurbarán who established himself in Mexico in 1640. His master was one of the most important disseminators of the naturalist language in Spanish America through paintings produced expressly for religious institutions, such as the set of apostles for the monastery of San Francisco in Lima, to which Saint James the Greater belongs.

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