Saint John Writing the Apocalypse. Martín de Vos. Oil on panel, 240 x 170 cm. Second half XVIth Century. Tepotzotlán, Estado de México, Museo Nacional del Virreinato, INAH.

Following the initial contact with America at the end of the 1400s, Spanish and Portuguese territorial expansion throughout the continent reached a peak in the sixteenth century. A complex administrative structure was established, new cities were founded and many settlers arrived from the Iberian Peninsula and other parts of Europe. Among the new settlers were many artists, who brought techniques, styles and compositional formulas learned in Europe and laid the foundations for the development of the visual arts and architecture in Latin America. It was a slow process, which became consolidated during the final decades of the century and involved artists from Italy, Flanders and Spain.

Such variety meant that the beginnings of the history of painting in Spanish America were very richly underpinned and refl ected major trends in European art. Th is is illustrated by the works in this section, which were executed by European-born painters such as the Italian Jesuit Bernardo Bitti, who settled in Cuzco in 1575; the Spaniard Alonso Vázquez, who after contributing to the development of Mannerism in Andalusia went to live in Mexico in 1603; and Mateo Pérez de Alesio, also an Italian, who began working in Lima in 1588. Other painters, such as Martin de Vos, sent their works from Europe.

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