Three casta paintings

mulato2.gif Attrib. José de Alcíbar, 6. De Español y Negra, Mulato, ca. 1760-1770. Denver Art Museum. Image found here; specifics for this painting from Ilona Katzew, Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico.

Two worlds God has placed in the hands of our Catholic Monarch, and the New does not resemble the Old, not in its climate, its customs, nor its inhabitants; it has another legislative body, another council for governing, yet always with the end of making them alike: In the Old Spain only a single caste of men is recognized, in the New many and different.
–Francisco Antonio Lorenzana, Spanish prelate and archbishop of Mexico from 1766 to 17721

In Antonio Lorenzana’s statement we find a basic stating of something that the Spanish crown was simply blind to, at least on an official level: that its colonies were not merely just really far away from Madrid but could not have been more different from Spain. Certainly by Antonio Lorenzana’s time those differences were inescapable; Mexico’s revolt from Spain would begin only 40 years later.

All art is the human imagination’s attempt to make sense of the world and the things and people in it, and casta paintings are a distinctly New World genre that attempts to depict and codify the bewildering variety of racial combinations arising from the commingling of indigenous, African and European populations in this hemisphere.
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On the “Secondary Sources” page . . .

(which, by the way, you’ll find the link for over in the left gutter), the interested reader can find the beginnings of a list of book-length theoretical works and literary and historical criticism that, however indirectly, have a bearing on this project. As you’ll see, I’ve supplied links to their Amazon pages if those pages have some information about the work (either a blurb or a reader’s review).

The list will grow, of course; in the meantime, if visitors know of a work that they think should be on the list, I hope they’ll see their way clear to add it in comments.