The Apparition of the Virgin and Child to Saint Francis. José Juárez. Oil on canvas, 264 x 286 cm. XVIIth Century. Ciudad de México, Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA.

Beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, the painters active in Spanish America and their patrons grew increasingly ambitious as regards formats, compositional solutions and pictorial language, and an expansive, vibrant style was developed which marks one of the peak moments in the history of painting in America. Four examples help understand the phenomenon. The large size of all four is suggestive of the extraordinary ambition and confidence in art of the time. The Lactation of Saint Dominic shows the highly personal style of Cristóbal de Villalpando and his eff ective technique for depicting very numerous groups of people in movement and for revealing a brilliant, supernatural reality. A comparison with The Death of Saint Dominic by the “Murillesque” Andalusian artist Juan Simón Gutiérrez reveals notable compositional similarities, though the Mexican artist employs a much higherkey palette. Th is emphasis on colour has often led him to be compared with Valdés Leal, and it is a characteristic shared by many other Spanish painters such as Claudio Coello. Villalpando started off producing works like that of the Mexican José Juárez, which is more restrained in colour but equally ambitious in composition.

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