The art of the missions of northern New Spain

1 See Duhaut-Cilly’s A Voyage to California, the Sandwich Islands, and Around the World in the Years 1826–1829, ed.August Frugé and Neal Harlow (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999), pp. 110–111. 

2 See David J. Weber, “Arts and Architecture, Force and Fear: The Spanish-Indian Struggle for Sacred Space,” in The Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain (Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City, 2009). 

3 William L. Merrill, “Indigenous Societies, Missions, and the Colonial System in Northern New Spain,” ibid., p. 

4 See Michael K. Komanecky, entry for the tabernacle at California’s Mission Santa Barbara, ibid., No. 243. 

5 See, for example, ibid., pp. 261–264. 

6  The Jesuit and Franciscan missions each had their own resources and system of administration, and hence their own means of acquiring works of art. Unlike the usual practice of the Franciscans, the Jesuits were regularly allowed to manage money and handle requests personally.  7 Quoted in Clara Bargellini, “Art at the Missions of Northern New Spain,” in Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain, p. . 

8 Libro XXXXV, fol. 105, Archivo Eclesiástico de la Catedral de Durango, quoted ibid.,” p.    . Tamarón was bishop of Durango from 1757 to 1769. 

9 Quoted in Bargellini, “Art at the Missions of Northern New Spain,” p.    . 

10 Ibid., p. . 

11 My thanks to Kristina Foss, director of the Santa Barbara Mission Museum for bringing this piece to my attention. 

12 See Kelly Wallace-Donahue’s entry on hide paintings in Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain, pp. 293–303. 

13 For a discussion of the Chumash in California, see Janice Timbrook’s entry on Chumash baskets in ibid., pp. 327–332. The Chumash, whose population was estimated at some 20,000 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (d. 1543) explored the California coast in 1542, were spread among some 150 principal towns and villages. The missions at San Luis Obispo, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, La Purísima Concepción, and Santa Inés were all founded in Chumash territory. By about 1816 nearly all of the native people in the region had been brought into these mission communities. 

14 See Georgia Lee, The Portable Cosmos: Effigies, Ornaments, and Incised Stone from the Chumash Area, Ballena Press Anthropological Papers, No. 21 (Ballena Press, Socorro, N. M., 1981), pp. 17, 25, and 32–33. 

15 For a more thorough discussion, see Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain. 

16 See ibid., No. 245. Juana Basilia was from Sumuawawa, a town thought to have been located in the Santa Monica Mountains near present-day Thousand Oaks or Newbury Park. She was baptized at Mission San Buenaventura on February 7, 1806, at about twenty-four years of age. 

17 The Vancouver expedition made two stops in November 1793 in the Chumash region, one at Santa Barbara and another at San Buenaventura. Based on its materials and weaving technique, it is likely the hat was made somewhere north of Santa Barbara. According to Timbrook, the crown portion resembles a traditional Chumash basketry cap of the type worn by women to cushion the head against the weight of the carrying strap, and the design in the brim is characteristic of traditional Chumash baskets. The small fragment of blue silk ribbon attached where the brim meets the crown is probably a remnant of ribbon used to tie the hat under the chin. Broken stitches at the edge of the crown and near the rim, as well as some discoloration inside the crown and fading on the upper surface, are indications that this hat was actually used. See Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain, No. 244. 

18 Marie Areti-Hers, “Northern New Spain and the Ancient Interweaving of Images,” in ibid.

MICHAEL K. KOMANECKY is the inter-im director and chief curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. He is the co-curator of the exhibition The Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain.

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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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