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Luis de Riaño (1596-1667)
Luis de Riaño (1596-1667)

Saint Michael Archangel

Details
Luis de Riaño (1596-1667)
Saint Michael Archangel
faintly signed and dated 'Luis de Riaño, fa. año de 1640' (lower right)
oil on canvas
81 x 56 in. (205.7 x 142.2 cm.)
Painted in 1640.
Provenance
Private collection, Caracas.
Gift from the above to the present owner.
Post lot text
1 F. Cossio del Pomar, Peruvian Colonial Art: The Cuzco School of Painting, New York: Wittenberg and Company, 1964.
2 J. De Mesa and T. Gisbert de Mesa, Historia de la pintura cuzqueña, Lima: Fundación A.N. Wiese, Banco Wiese, 1982, 29-44.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, the Archangel Michael led the celestial armies to victory over Satan and his rebel angels, vanquishing them forever to the bowels of Hell. During the Counter Reformation, the Archangel and his fellow angels became potent symbols as defenders of the faith combating Protestant and pagan heresies. Fantastically costumed archangels were one of the most popular subjects to develop in the art of the Spanish colonies, especially in the Andes. Attired in a dazzling brightly colored flowing mantle that resembles those of ancient Roman military leaders and with powerful wings that enhance his martial appearance, St. Michael descends from the heavens. He tramples the demon and snakes which recoil under his feet while holding a palm branch, a badge of triumph over death in his right hand and with his left, holds a staff with cross and banderole with the words Quien Como Dios as he asks Satan scornfully. His monumental presence overwhelms the composition against the dark landscape which resembles the aftermath of a battlefield. In the New World, the figure of a heavenly creature such as an archangel was one of the primary Christian iconographies that were easily accepted as the native populations and their local leaders adopted this saintly soldier. They identified with St. Michael and these otherworldly beings as they too did battle and recognized aspects of their manner of dress, such as their wings, thus associating with them as valiant warriors.1 Both the Church which used images of angels to evangelize and decorate their parishes, monasteries and convents, and private citizens who clamored for paintings of angels for private devotion, commissioned these highly desirable images.
in the present work, the criollo artist Luis de Riaño (1596-1667) has rendered the iconic figure with great pomp conveyed through the ornamental details of his lavish costume but also serene dignity through his fearless appearance as a formidable warrior. Born in Lima to Spanish parents, Captain Juan de Riaño and Ana de Cáceres, Riaño trained in Lima at the workshop of Angelino Medoro (1557-1631), an Italian master who had lived and worked in Seville before traveling to Lima in or about 1600. The young Riaño began his apprenticeship at the age of fifteen in 1611 and stayed for six years. The artist is an important link between the Italians such as Bernado Bitti, Mateo de Alesio, and his own master, Medoro, and later styles in the Viceroyalty of Peru. It is his generation that begins the path to what has been referred to as the “Cuzco School” or el barroco mestizo.2 By 1626 Riaño was in Cuzco where he made his home and was considered at this time both painter and sculptor and in demand by the local churches and other religious institutions. One of his most important commissions was part of the murals for the San Pedro Apóstol Church in Andahuaylillas (1626-1630) including the The Path to Heaven and Hell.
Margarita J. Aguilar, Art Historian
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