Flowers and Floral Imagery in New Spain's Visual Production and Religious Spaces

Author(s): James Cordova

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Flower World: Religion, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Mesoamerica and the American Southwest" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Colonial Mexican portraits of priests, nuns, and children donning elaborate floral trappings indicate their subjects’ holiness and connect Euro-Christian and Mesoamerican ideas of sacredness, nobility, and a propitious afterlife. Their rich visual display explicitly highlights the virtuousness and unblemished souls of their subjects, and, in the case of funeral portraits, they must have signified a heavenly afterlife. Similarly, many murals in early colonial Mexican churches and convents highlight floral imagery and conjure a paradisiacal garden that links Euro-Christian and Mesoamerican ideas of an afterlife set in a garden or flower world. This paper examines these connections and argues that indigenous painters (tlacuilos) and flower artists (xochimanque) worked with priests and nuns to create these cross-cultural works. Furthermore, taking a cross-cultural perspective allows us to consider colonial-era flowery trappings and floral murals as more than simple representations of religious individuals and paradisiacal settings, but also as visual devises that could activate the sacredness of individuals and religious settings. In these cases, some key aspects of the indigenous Flower World overlapped in a visually harmonious manner with Euro-Christian concepts of flowers, the "odor of sanctity," and the heavenly afterlife.

Cite this Record

Flowers and Floral Imagery in New Spain's Visual Production and Religious Spaces. James Cordova. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450456)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25656