This early 18th-century Cusco School oil on canvas depicts Christ resurrected from the tomb. Lifted upon a choir of angels, he defeats death and the devil. The painting originated in Peru and was purchased by a previous owner from Lima, the capital.
During the 17th century, Cusco, Peru, erupted with religious works, following the influence of artists who travelled over from Europe. From 1532, it was part of the Spanish empire and flooded with new artistic philosophies. One of the most influential was Italian Bernardo Bitti (1548–1610) who introduced ‘mannerism’, whereby figures are often elongated to add drama. His ideas filtered down to local painters, such as Diego Quispe Tito (1611–1681), who blended traditional iconography with new European ideas. Tito’s works, in turn, set the tone for a raft of Peruvian painters that followed in his footsteps.
The Cusco School is characterised by religious paintings which lack depth of field and display strong colours - particularly red and yellow. They tend to be looser than those of their European counterparts and can also feature regional flora and fauna.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the popularity of this talented wave of local painters grew to such an extent that it resulted in workshops on an industrial scale. Hundreds of religious paintings were produced and sold in various cities including Lima - although only a fraction now remain.
This particular piece was most probably inspired by Diego Quispe Tito and sold in Lima around 1700. This is apparently where it stayed until brought to Europe in the 20th century. It’s a fascinating glimpse at a flourishing art market and a notable piece of South American history.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 21” x 28” / 54cm x 71cm
Year of creation: c. 1700
Condition: Craquelure but the paint is broadly stable. Losses and abrasions. Canvas relined. Later stretcher. Frame with some wear.