Transforming Saints: Women, Art, and Conversion in Spain and Mexico, 1521-1800


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Art History


For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2011-2012


This project investigates the transformation of Spanish Catholic imagery during the mass religious conversion that occurred after the fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, in 1521. What congruences came to the fore, as mendicant friars attempted to foster conversion from the Aztec religion, with its pantheon of deities, to Catholicism, with its constellation of saints? Why were friars so preoccupied with potential covert practices circulating around images of female holy figures? This investigation concentrates on St. Anne, the Madonna, Mary Magdalene, and St. Librada, all critical figures in Catholic devotion, all figures whose imagery came under Church scrutiny, and all figures whose cults were conflated with indigenous religious practices and, at times, known cults of native deities.