San Antonio 1718
Art from Mexico
Portraits, landscapes, religious paintings, and devotional and secular objects that put San Antonio's founding in context
Published in partnership with San Antonio Museum of Art
Three hundred years ago San Antonio was a outpost of presidios and missions on the edge of northern New Spain, imposing Spanish political and religious principles on this contested, often hostile region. The city’s many Catholic missions bear architectural witness to the time of their founding, but few have walked these sites without wondering who once lived there and what they saw, valued, and thought.
San Antonio 1718 presents a wealth of art depicting a rich blending of sometimes conflicted cultures—explorers, colonialists, and indigenous peoples—and places the city’s founding in context. The book is organized into three sections, accompanied by essays by five internationally recognized scholars with expertise in key aspects of eighteenth-century northern New Spain. Part 1, "People and Places,” features art depicting the lives of ordinary people. Such art is rare since most painting and sculpture from the period was made in service to the church, the crown, or wealthy families. The works provide compelling insight into how those living in the Spanish colonies viewed gender, social organization, ethnicity, occupation, dress, home and workplace furnishings, and architecture. Portraiture was the most popular genre of eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Mexican painting, and the second part, “Cycle of Life,” includes a selection of individual and family portraits representing people in different stages of life. The third and largest part is devoted to the church.
Throughout the colonial period, Catholic evangelization of New Spain went hand in hand with military, economic, and political expansion. All the major religious orders—the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Jesuits, and the Augustinians—played significant roles in proselytizing indigenous populations of northern New Spain, establishing monasteries and convents to support these efforts.
In San Antonio 1718, more than a hundred portraits, landscapes, religious paintings, and devotional and secular objects reveal the culture that reflected and supported this region’s evolving worldview, signaling how New Spain saw itself and its vast colonial and religious ambitions prior to the emergence of an independent Mexico and, subsequently, the state of Texas.