Placid Exuberance and Ostentatious Habits: Depicting the Human Form in New Spain, New France, and the Guaraní Reductions of Paraguay
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This thesis discusses art produced by holy women in New France and New Spain in addition to figural sculpture from the former and the Guaraní missions of Paraguay. The art produced in such disparate regions transcends the realities of the human body through a negation of natural physiognomies and emotive states in favour of stylized forms and serene expressions. Since no comparative studies yet exist for the arts of New France and colonial Latin America this thesis presents a crucial challenge and opportunity to explore commonalities. As the first female missionaries outside Europe nuns in New France strived to become living saints and martyrs. Some arts, particularly embroidery, operated as penance to aid women in achieving their quest for immortality. In Mexican nunneries women’s bodies became works of art through their integration in to multiple mediums, as seen in portraits of nuns in which bodies operate as canvases. Similarly, through performance the woman’s body in the Ursulines of Quebec City became a component of her embroidery which she embodied with her holy aura. The omission of suffering is a prominent feature in figures of Christ and the saints in Guaraní and French Canadian sculpture. These aspects are heightened through the carving of draperies assuming the emotion absent in the figures. With similar characteristics appearing in both locations this thesis discusses why two cultures vastly removed in distance display profound stylistic similarities. The colonizer’s art replacing that of the colonized is a myth perpetuated by the belief that indigenous cultures were eradicated through contact with Europeans. Similarly, we cannot assume a continuity of European artistic ideals among French settlers in New France. This presents another discourse on the convergence of cultures thoroughly separated from one another in the scholarly consciousness.