on July 1, 2012
I had a chance to leaf through this completely gorgeous volume at the Denver Art Museum recently. The only reason I did not buy it is because I have so many art books already. The reproductions are superb. This collection is by far the best collection overall for quality I have ever seen. I emphasize quality here, because I have seen larger collections in various spots in Latin America. The Denver collection is also huge, yet maybe not as big as some of the Museos de Arte Colonial that one finds in the countries of origin, particularly in Mexico. But the Denver Collection has so many A+ paintings that no other collection even comes close. Perhaps the ones in Quito or Cartagena come closest. (the various mexican museums have many highlights, but it is all dragged down by a truly vast amount of lesser pieces, to such an extent that it really is daunting, and makes one wonder if they have ever heard of curators in Mexico, either that or they are just in love with anything that was ever produced in their country!) Yet the Denver collection is NOT mostly super grand pieces, but rather just amazing works of art on a more normal scale. My favorite, simply because it was so charming, was a work entitled The Mystic Supper (or dinner) which featured several saints, including Theresa of Avila, all notable for abstemiousness, and clearly the point was that they were not eating sitting at the table. The charming part was that below the table was a very cute and fat cat, looking very pleased that the humans were not eating, since clearly the leavings were most welcome and consumed. I found it amazing that the museum placard, which DID comment on the depiction of asceticism with food in the painting, did NOT comment on this butter-ball feline. Let's put it this way: If a dog pissing in a Dutch Golden Age church interior is a sign of anti-clericalism (as art scholars love to say generally, particularly at the National Gallery DC) then this Spanish Colonial fat cat in Denver is some sort of comment on self-mortification, and and possibly a skeptical one. Anyways, if you love Spanish Colonial art this collection is simply the greatest thing you will ever see!