Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Plethora of Doctors & Scholars

We have been on a quest for the last three years to learn more about Mexico.  2 years ago I wrote about the Yucat√°n and Chiapas.  Last year it was an intensive on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This time we are off on a group tour to Puebla,  Malinalco, and Mexico City.  On this tour there is an Audiologist, a Neurologist, a neck and head Surgeon  and an Oncologist.  The latter, is clearly also a scholar of Pre-Columbian art.  The rest of the scholarly side, includes a museum director, curator, tour organizer, and 2 retired curators with great art historical knowledge and then the rest of us!  We were 24 in total.

Traveling in a group on a bus requires a great deal of organization such as getting the right bags on the bus and to the rooms at the next destination.  The image below is much of our luggage ready to go on our bus.  The organizer is Rosa Carlson of Journey’s International who has arranged trips for the Denver Art Museum and the Spanish Colonial Museum plus a number of other groups and individuals during the past 30 years.

Our first stop was in Puebla, a surprisingly large city whose sprawl reminded me a bit of London but that is where the comparison ends.  As is so often the case a major site was the incredible Cathedral in the center of town completed in 1649. They did not allow photography even though it is a major tourist site where there is an incredible hustle and bustle all day long.  For me, the major attraction was the central cupola painted by Cristobal Villalpando (? – 1714).  I could not resist taking a photo and the big light in the center is daylight.

Across the street from the Cathedral was an amazing Historical Library dating from 1772.   To my surprise scholars are still allowed to use the original old books and are not forced to use microfiche or the modern equivalent.  Here is an image of the engraving plate possibly from the date of founding and it has not changed.  Then my image today.

The Baroque Museum in Puebla had a few serious pieces but much of it was pure propaganda including copies of  famous sculptures from various museums around the world.  The Governor who visited regularly made suggestions along the way with a serious interest in getting this town on the map.  There was one very important exception.  There was an exhibition of works by the above mentioned Villalpando, which in my estimation brought this experience from a C+ to an A+!  Here are 2 of my favorites.  “The Virgin of the Apocalypse and St. Michael, Archangel” and “The Deluge”.  I hope these images can convey some of the innovation that this artist realized.

On our bus tours it was incredible to see the live volcano belching smoke as we drove past.  We understand that the people living close to it hear it as well.  It does not sound relaxing to me! We visited some archeological sites but they were above my walking abilities, one that I am sorry I missed had these incredible murals.  I did see some of the vivid reproductions in the on site museum and the originals were far more faded but here is one of the images that my wife took of the personage who chose those who would be sacrificed.

I have seen pre-Columbian objects in museums before but never as many and as different as we did at the Museo Amparo, it was one of the first times I could get excited about this field and wanted to learn more.  At the beginning of the installation was a large Mayan work dating from 600-900 A.D.  It was a backrest for a throne with a sovereign, courtesan and a deity in the center.  A sculpture which truly surprised me was a voluptuous woman, obviously a symbol of fertility, who, to accentuate the point, was anatomically correct under her skirt as well.  You might have to enlarge the detail but the idea itself is quite amazing considering it was made over 2,000 years ago on the west coast of Mexico in Galisco.

I am so in awe of this work that I cannot resist one more.  A head with 2 faces which though it is quite different makes me think of the North West Coast Native American transformation masks. It is, however, the god of spring and therefore a young face (or two!) from the Gulf coast of Vera Cruz.

Malinalko did not work out so well since the 16th century Augustinian Monastery  with monochromatic frescoes done by indigenous artists  was closed due to earthquake damage but they did open one doorway for us.  The local museum was also closed because of a holiday but our leader phoned the director and managed to get them to open just for our group!  Here an image of the monastery and part of one of the Frescos.

Now on to Mexico City…

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