A work of art has a number of meanings, which can also be interpreted in different ways, depending on the conditions or circumstances of its observation. However, the important component of the perception is the context or historical connotations, which live outside the paintings and accompany its inception. A historical period, the possible influences on a popular mass culture or individual personalities, and the details of the environment, shapes the viewer’s perception in the different way. The current essay examines the historic environment of the picture “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” created by the artist Melchor Perez Holguin, and is aimed on the revealing its subtext. The paper examines how the surroundings affect the perception of the viewer and determine its consequences.
The knowledge makes a substantial adjustment in the mass consciousness. Moreover, it may reveal the wider range of the individual views on the world and art objects that inhabit it. One of the finest examples of text and context interrelationship is a painting “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” created by Holguin. The artist was born in 1660 in Cochabamba, which at the time was under the vicegerency of Peru. Experts consider the artist to be the follower of the Baroque era. Some of them are inclined to believe that he adhered to the Baroque realism. Despite the Peruvian origin, the master spent almost all his life in Bolivia. The history did not save a lot of the information about his parents; the public knows only their names – Diego Perez Holguin and Doña Esperanza Flores.
It is not known exactly, who was the teacher of the Bolivian artist, but the cultural experts suggest that it was Murillo, from whom Melchor Perez was learning his mastery in Seville. In addition, such legendary figures as Surbarana influenced the artist too. The majority of his works are related to the figures that transmit some mysticism and asceticism. As a rule, Melchor Perez was creating his masterpieces on the request of the various religious orders of the Catholic Church.
Most of his artworks concern the Dominicans and Franciscans. The connoisseurs of art conventionally divided the entire career path of the artist into the three main periods. The first period comprises works carried out under the order for Franciscan monasteries, among which are the San-Pedro-de-Alcantara. The second period includes majorly the mural paintings, which are larger in the size. The most famous of them are “The Last Judgment” (1708, Potosi) and “Triumph Church” (1706, Potosi). Finally, the third period of the creative life differs significantly from the earlier mystical directions. Here, the realism is combined with religious subjects that appear before the audience more clearly in the form of such paintings as “The Holy Family with Saints John” (Potosi) and “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” (National Museum of La – Paz). The picture of “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin”, which was created around 1714, can be referred to the transition period from the artist’s mystical asceticism to the live realism.
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The picture is filled with some sort of mystical trends, evidenced by a voluminous glance of Luka and the symbolic presence of the bull in the canvas. However, despite the element, the story represents a classical religious staging, when someone paints a picture with a virgin. To understand why such transformations were reached, it is necessary to consider the era of the painting’s creation. In the seventeenth century, Bolivia was surrounded by the works of the great Spanish artists like Zurbarán and Francisco Pacheco, which influenced the art.
The artists had created some furor in Potosin School, which was characterized by a tendency to reflect the reality. The first of the painters, who have shown the realistic sensitivity, was Francisco de Herrera y Velarde. The other artists belonged to the different currents of their time. Despite being different in the artworks, they formed one community of followers in stakes, La Paz, Oruro, and in some places near the Lake Titicaca. Eventually, Leonardo Flores Quispe Tito became the key persona that contributed to the formation of the
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national Baroque. The environment has a significant effect on the work and the development of Melchor Perez Holguin, who was called “master Calamarca”.
With the passage of the time, Holguin influenced the generation of artists, who lived after him. He had famous students, including Joaquin Carabal or Gaspar Miguel de Berrio, who is known as the author of “The Coronation of the Virgin” Until today, he remains the best follower of the Holguin art. However, Nicolas Ecoz was the closest students to his teacher, as he signed a lot of own works by the name of the teacher.
Thus, the work “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” can also be attributed to the great masterpieces of the mysticism as the “Triumph of the Church” (1708) or “Input Virrey Morcillo into Potosí” (1718), because it is also a part of the series of Spanish mystical paintings of the religious-ascetic character. The artworks provided the base for the solid knowledge to intertwine with some supernatural things. The artists of the time were on the verge of heresy and spurred significant controversy in the society.
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With regard to the place of the painting execution, it is necessary to say that the artist worked mostly in the Imperial Villa, and all of his paintings were signed as created in the place. Up to now, culturologists have not found any images created outside the villa. The National Mint contains the majority of artist’s works. The distinguished pieces are the bust of San – Mateo Evangelista or a portrait of San – Bernardo. “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” is stored in Bolivia, in Potosi.
Moreover, it is important to note that the historical understanding of the piece has changed throughout the years many times. Before creating the original painting in 1714, Melchor Perez Holguin has made the numerous attempts to make a similar picture. Furthermore, there is at least one painting of Holguin’s authorship, which has the same name “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin”. It is dated 1718. Another phenomenon is that there is no information on how many of such paintings exist, given the fact that much of the legacy has been looted and now is in the possession of the private collectors.
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The main message of the picture has also changed over the centuries. Today, it looks more like a historical relic, which can be a good basis for the study of the early eighteenth century. In addition, the painting is the object of the careful study of the artists, who explore the different waves of art. Also, it is approachable among the students, who try to understand the development of the Spanish art mastery from its inception to the present time.
The project should note that the object has its own value. Despite the presence of a certain plane in the images of the faces and the living objects, it is possible to see how every year the painting becomes more powerful and has more dimension. In particular, it is noticeable through the fabric on canvas, as “Saint Luke Painting the Virgin” perfectly illustrates the folds on the Luke’s sleeves and his cloak. However, the composition itself remains flat and resembles a mosaic or a collage.
Thus, summarizing the above, it is necessary to say that the picture takes different characteristics, when the viewer knows the history of its creation, the life story of the author and any of the amazing facts of his biography related to the painting. The essay has examined the most important basic components, which could affect the perception of the viewer. The turning points in the artist’s life, the time and the place of the painting, as well as conditions, which were before the creation of artwork all contribute to the understanding of the message. In addition, the essay has provided some understanding of the changes of painting perception over time.