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The Legend of Santa Sophronia

In colonial Peru, the ruling Spanish orchestrated the production and dispersal of religious imagery as testimony to the Christian mission of Spanish domination. This long narrative panel—which should be read from right to left—was produced in the Spanish colonial artistic center of Cuzco, Peru, a highland city that remained a stronghold of native Inca culture. While the artists working in Spanish-influenced painting guilds borrowed heavily from works by European artists in the local collections of the Spanish, they also altered those models through the addition of potentially subversive native elements: here the landscape elements typical of the circle of the artist Quispe Tito derive directly from Netherlandish painting, while the native influence is visible in the floral decoration and playful birds. The subject of Saint Sophronia remains an odd choice; an obscure medieval Italian figure, Sophronia does not appear on the Church calendar and has rarely been a subject in art.


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