The Cusco school and its main paintings

The Cusco school is a pictorial school that emerged during the colonial period in Cuzco., Peru. His works combine the color of the flamenco style, the grace of mannerism and the use of Renaissance perspective, mixed with the Inca and pre-Inca tradition and symbology.

What is the Cusco school

The so-called Cusco school was formed by a group of painters of indigenous origin who produced a type of painting, above all religious, that It mixed local traditions with European ones. And everything, as a result of the models of the paintings of the monk of Italian origin Bernardo Bitti and the painter Luis de Riaño, born in Lima but of Spanish parents.

It was developed in the city of CuzcoHence the name that this group of artists acquires and whose main representatives are the indigenous Diego Quispe Tito and Basilio de Santa Cruz Pumacallao, whose representations transcend the borders of the Viceroyalty of Peru.


The paintings stand out for the great contrast between the twilight zones and the intense reds, greens and pinks of native plants, flowers and birds. These are interspersed with European-style Bible scenes from prints and engravings brought by sea.

The main works in Cuzco

Many are the works that this school produced and its art has transcended all over the world. Between them, the works of Diego Quispe Tito stand out, among them the vision of the cross or the series of Saint John Baptist or of Saint Sebastian, the latter partially lost in the fire that the church of San Sebastián de Cuzco suffered in 2016.

Also by the same author is zodiac series, of the Cusco Cathedral. Painted in 1681, on each canvas she represented an astral house linked to a scene from the Gospel. And in the National Museum of Cuzco History you can see the return from egyptpainted in 1680 for the qur was inspired by an engraving showing the composition by Pedro Pablo Rubens.

Other works

The Virgin of Bethlehem Basilio de Santa Cruz Pumacallao is another of the outstanding paintings of the Cusco school. In this case, the main influence is found in Murillo. It is one of the paintings that adorn the cathedral of Cuzco.

It is also one of the most unique paintings, represents the journey that the Virgin lives from her departure from Spain until her arrival in Cuzco. With an idyllic setting, the characters that appear are more specific: members of the city’s population who were reflected in the composition, forming part of the historical event.

The Corpus Christi Series It is another of the essentials of this school. It was made by one of the followers of Basilio Santa Cruz for the parish of Santa Ana de Cuzco. Today it can be seen in the Museum of Religious Art of the archbishopric of that city, although three of the paintings are in Chile.

This work was made around the year 1680 and represents Cuzco society fully incorporated into Christianity. The series is one of the most appreciated for its historical and ethnographic well as artistic, because it shows various social strata of colonial Cuzco.

The works of the Cusco school outside Cuzco

Quispe Tito or his circle of followers highlights the painting of the Virgin of Carmen. It is a work that is in the Brooklyn Museum, like the spectacular painting of the Virgin of Pomata or the Portrait of Atahualpaboth of unknown author.

It is necessary to highlight the canvas of the Marriages of Martín de Loyola with Beatriz Ñusta and of Juan de Borja with Lorenza Ñusta de Loyola. It is one of the most spectacular paintings of the Cusco school. There are several copies of it, highlighting the one kept by the Pedro de Osma Museum in Lima.

It is a picture with obvious propaganda intent. With it, it is intended to transform a history of violent conquest into a marriage between peoples. Thus, two matrimonial unions that occurred in different spaces and times are represented as a sample of the cultural miscegenation of the Viceroyalty.

Precisely, in this Lima museum we can find some of the best examples of the Cusco school, like the pictures of The Genealogy of the Incas, in which some of the Inca kings are portrayed. Marian representations and paintings of angels and arquebusiers, very fashionable in the 18th century, are also exhibited.

The canvases of Life of Saint Augustine they are also great works of this school. Basilio Pacheco painted them for the convent of San Agustín in Lima. It was a commission for the capital of the Viceroyalty, which shows the importance that this school had acquired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button