Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brother Bernardo Bitti, SJ (1548-1610) and The Cuzco School of Painting

Bernardo Bitti (1548-1610)
Madonna and Child (Virgen del pajarito)
Oil on Canvas 48 x 38 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte,

Bernardo Bitti (1548-1610)
The Coronation of the Virgin
Church of St Peter

Bernardo Bitti (1548-1610)
The Agony in the Garden,
Museum of Art

Three Italian artists introduced Mannerism to the Vice-Royalty of Peru in the 17th century: Mateo da Lecce (known as Mateo Pérez de Alesio), Angelino Medoro, and Brother Bernardo Bitti SJ, all of whom were trained in the great Italian workshops of the High Renaissance.

Bitti worked in the Cuzco region during the first years of the 17th century and left some disciples, including Pedro de Vargas and Gregorio Gamarra.

Until 1650, Cuzco painting followed the manner of the High Renaissance: monumental and enlarged figures dressed in voluminous clothes, presented either in small groups on neutral backgrounds or in large, crowded scenes that cover almost the entire canvas.

Engravings of complex sacred allegories and emblems, produced in the Flemish, French, or Italian workshops, spread throughout the Americas to support the propaganda of the church of the Counter-reformation.

The palette, limited to ochre, yellow, blue, and intense red, became increasingly complex and was enriched by the use of gold to re-create the luster of jewels and the rich and varied textures of cloth.

Bitti (born in Camerino, Italy) entered the Jesuits in 1568 at the age of 20. He was sent to Peru, and arrived in Lima on 1st May 1575. The following year the viceroy sent him to Titicaca to be in charge of the local missions. His works may be found in Lima, Arequipa, Cuzco, Huamanga, Puno, Juli, La Paz, Chuquisaca, Potosí and elsewhere.

Art historian Manuel Soria called him the best painter of sixteenth century South America.