Success Stories in the 'New World'. From the Genesis of Mendicant Pictorial Vitae in the 'Old World', to their Migration and Projection in the Convents of the Viceroyalty of Peru

Veronika Winkler, M.A.

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cloister walls of important European and Peruvian convents became the favorite space for religious orders to display the life of their founder. The visualized founder’s life projects the ideology and corporate identity of the community, which transformed over time in word and image. This type of self-advertisement was common for most orders; however, the mendicants are especially important for their continuous preoccupation with their reputation and their successful art campaigns all over the world due to their missionary vision. While previous scholarship has attended to single painted life cycles or particular art periods of one order, this project steps beyond historiographic time and national boundaries to explore the migration and alteration of the visual founder’s life of the important mendicant and missionary orders (the Franciscans, Dominicans and Mercedarians).
This dissertation scrutinizes how the founder’s life stories from the thirteenth century – of St. Francis, St. Dominic and St. Peter Nolascus – have been passed down over generations and across countries revealing their different dynamics and ideological shifts up to their arrival in the Viceroyalty of Peru in the seventeenth century. Particular attention is paid to the neglected art activities after the Council of Trent, from the printing campaigns that supplied an updated canonical life of the order’s founder, to the agents that spread them all over the world, and the adaption of these prints by artists and priors for their cloister decoration in the Viceroyalty of Peru. These successful visual translations with intentional, anachronistic alterations and narration strategies enhanced the mendicant order’s local relationship with the secular audience, while the pictorial vitae served simultaneously as collective memories and time loops connecting the past with the present.
After photographic campaigns and research in Spain and Peru, the fellowship at the Bibliotheca Hertziana completes the final phase of this project by examining the order’s research institutions in Rome with its historical collections and newest publications.

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