The ARTES-CEEH Travel Scholarship supported my travels to Spain in July 2021. I conducted research in three different cities – Madrid, Seville and Vitoria-Gasteiz. This primary research directly benefited the preparation of my MA thesis, and progressed into further research at PhD level at the UCL History of Art department starting in 2022.
My initial proposed project with the title ‘The Intersection of Rhetoric Imagery and Text in the Context of Andean Religion 1700-1750: The Case of “El Rivero”’ had developed by the time I was able to travel to Spain with the ARTES-CEEH Travel Scholarship, many Covid restrictions still having remained in place. With the support of Dr Emily Floyd at UCL and her connection to an archivist at the Museo de Arte Religioso, Arzobispado del Cuzco, Peru, it became clear that the inscription on a painting signed by Gabriel Ugarte Pérez, 1754, was most likely a nineteenth-century addition rather than an original inscription. My original research aim to investigate “El Rivero” as mentioned in this inscription in Spanish archives, therefore haltered. That said, my interest in the rhetoric around the corruption of morality within the context of the Spanish Colonial period remained.
I started preparing my research trip to Spain, which was to include visiting the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid, and mapped further museums and collections that would be of interest to my research in relation to the Viceroyalty of Peru, its relations to Spain in the colonial period and beyond. Due to looming Covid restrictions at the time and for fear of not being able to travel at all, I decided to leave earlier than planned and, by doing so, extended my research stay to a month. I connected to archivists at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid as well as the Museo Fournier in Vitoria-Gasteiz and decided quickly that a trip to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville would also be beneficial.
The casta paintings in the collection of the Museo de Américas in Madrid led me to look further into casta paintings more generally, and to search for reference points in both visuals and writing that pertained to my research around ephemera, the motifs shown on these, and their impact. Narrative dimensions could transport a subliminal moral message to someone immersed in the pleasurable task of engaging with these objects.
Between archival finds and consulting secondary literature and started to write on my MA thesis, in which I dealt with the potential moral connotations that could be inherent in motifs, the nature of their use, and their dimensionality. My thesis concentrated mainly on the nineteenth century, as a lack of existing research in the field became apparent. I found colonial legislation and discourse to continue impacting heavily on the production of visuals in the early postcolonial era of Republican Peru. The research I conducted in Spain was fundamental to contextualise this aspect of my work in terms of production processes and object historiography. Furthermore, my visit allowed me to further my understanding of print production processes – for example through seeing print presses first-hand that would be used to produce some of the ephemera that were exported from Spain to the Americas.
Overall, this research trip contributed essential research findings to my MA thesis, part of which I have already presented at the Association for Art History Annual Conference 2022 as well as at the Graduate Symposium in the History of Art & Architecture, University of Oregon. I was also lucky to be able to complete an online course in Latin American palaeography at the Biblioteca Municipal de Lima, Peru at the same time as staying in Spain – which greatly facilitated my ability to read the documents I encountered in the archives during my research. The ARTES-CEEH Travel Scholarship and the palaeography course worked in perfect synergy: the palaeography course took place by night, and during daytime I was able to put my newly learnt skills to use.
I am extremely grateful to the ARTES-CEEH for the support and look forward to base future research projects as part of my PhD research at UCL on connecting themes.