Cuzco Paintings: A look into Cuzco's art after the Spanish Conquest

Reading : 3 min January 26 2023

Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is renowned for its stunning art crafted before the Spanish Conquest. This art is a reflection of Incan culture and craftsmanship, inspired by the surrounding environment and society.

The Incas were excellent craftsmen, well known for their metalwork and weaving. Metal was an especially important material to the Incas, used to craft weapons, tools, ornaments and jewelry. Most metalwork was made from copper, gold and silver, with complex designs and patterns often applied.

Textiles were a major part of Incan art, and the Incas are credited with creating fine fabrics and intricate embroidery techniques. Wool and cotton were the primary materials to produce textiles, along with brightly coloured feathers and natural dyes. The Incas used weaving as a form of communication, using symbols and motifs to tell stories and express ideas.

The Incas also created pottery and ceramics to decorate their temples and homes. The pottery was often brightly coloured and decorated with symbols or geometric shapes. Pottery was used for cooking and storage, and sometimes had a ceremonial purpose.

Incan art also featured a variety of stone carvings and sculptures. Stone was used to make figures, monuments and structures, some times to honour their deities. The most famous of these stone carvings is the Intihuatana, which is believed to be an astronomical clock. 

Incan art is a testament to the skill and sophistication of the Inca people. From metalwork to stone carvings, each piece of art tells a story about the Inca Empire and its people. Cusco’s art before the Spanish Conquest is a reminder of the beauty and uniqueness of Incan culture.

Cusco’s art after the Conquest

After the Spanish conquest, the art of Cusco underwent radical changes. The influence of the Spanish brought about a new style of art, one that combined Inca traditional elements with European imagery and techniques. This hybrid style of art is known as Peruvian Cusco painting, and it can be seen today throughout the city of Cusco.

Cusco’s art after the Spanish Conquest is a remarkable example of how two seemingly disparate cultures merged to create something beautiful. During the Spanish conquest, the Inca Empire fell into the hands of the Spanish, who brought with them their own culture, religion and art. But instead of letting the Spanish completely take over the Inca culture, the Incas adopted and adapted many of the Spanish traditions and beliefs to their own.

This hybrid style of art is still evident today in Cusco's artistic manifestations. One of the most evident example of this is the use of Catholic symbols and images combined with Inca symbols to create an entirely new art form. This is seen especially in religious artwork, such as the painting of the Virgin Mary surrounded by Inca symbols. Likewise, statues of Catholic saints are often combined with Inca iconography and nature elements.

The subject matter of Cuzco paintings is usually religious, with biblical scenes and Inca elements. Saints, angels and biblical stories are easy to find in this kind of art. In addition, the paintings often represent daily life in Cusco, from the vibrant markets to the crowded squares of the city.

This art style also includes religious architecture. In particular, the Qorikancha and the Santo Domingo Church are a great example of how the two cultures merged to create something new. When the Spanish arrived in Peru in the 16th century, they destroyed many of the Inca buildings and temples, including Qorikancha. The Spaniards replaced the Inca building with a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, making room for Santo Domingo Church.

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The most interesting aspect of Cusco’s art, however, is its incorporation of traditional Inca beliefs and practices into the Catholic religion. This can be seen in the way that Incan gods are often represented in artwork and architecture alongside Catholic saints. In some cases, the Incan gods are even seen as intermediaries between the Catholic God and the people. This hybrid style of faith  can be clearly seen along the city religious celebrations. For example, during the festival of Corpus Christi, the Inca god Inti is honored alongside the Christian God.

The art of Cusco after the Spanish conquest is a unique example of how two cultures can merge to create something beautiful. The artwork and architecture of Cusco shows a new art form that combined Inca beliefs and practices with Catholic teachings. This artistic style is still evident today, and serves as a reminder of the cultural richness that the Spanish conquest brought to Cusco.

Enjoy the beauty of Cusco by booking the Cusco Churches Tour. You will witness the beautiful artwork around the city and enjoy the gorgeous religious buildings.

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