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Transforming Saints
From Spain to New Spain

Author(s): Charlene Villaseñor Black

Transforming Saints explores the transformation and function of the images of holy females within wider religious, social, and political contexts of Old Spain and New Spain from the Spanish conquest to Mexican independence.

The chapters here examine the rise of the cults of the lactating Madonna, St. Anne, St. Librada, St. Mary Magdalene, and the Suffering Virgin. Concerned with holy figures presented as feminine archetypes, images that came under Inquisition scrutiny, as well as cults suspected of concealing indigenous influences, Charlene Villaseñor Black argues that these images would come to reflect the empowerment and agency of women in viceregal Mexico. Her close analysis of the imagery additionally demonstrates artists' innovative responses to Inquisition censorship and the new artistic demands occasioned by conversion.

The concerns that motivated the twenty-first century protests against Chicana artists Yolanda López in 2001 and Alma López in 2003 have a long history in the Hispanic world—anxieties about the humanization of sacred female bodies and fears of indigenous influences infiltrating Catholicism. In this context Black also examines a number of important artists in depth, including El Greco, Murillo, Jusepe de Ribera, and Pedro de Mena in Spain and Naples and Baltasar de Echave Ibía, Juan Correa, Cristóbal de Villalpando, and Miguel Cabrera.

Biography of Author(s)


  • "Black's analysis of the artistic transformations of similar subject matter in New Spain shed light on the global circulation of early modern Spanish art while acknowledging the cultural singularity of New Spain. . . . The reader never loses sight of the book's purpose."
    James M. Córdova, author of The Art of Professing in Bourbon Mexico: Crowned-Nun Portraits and Reform in the Convent