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Casta Painting

Casta Painting

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore the colonial genre of casta painting.

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Tutorial

An overview of Casta Painting in New Spain.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Casta Painting. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives, the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of today's lesson you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain how Casta Paintings depicted the social stratification of the Spanish New World colonies, and identify examples of Casta Paintings. Key terms are always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term is Casta Painting, a type of painting that was common in Mexico in the 18th century that depicts a racially mixed family consisting of the two parents of different races and their child. Viceroyalty is the territory controlled by a person who rules in place of the king or queen. Criollo is a person of Spanish descent born and raised in the New World. Costumbrismo, the depiction of scenes of everyday life which is the Spanish equivalent of a genre painting in Dutch chart.

Mestiza or Mestizo, there's the feminine and masculine forms of that word, in the casta system a person with one European and one indigenous parent. Mulatta or Mulatto, in the casta system a person with one European and one African parent. And Peninsulares, people originally born in Spain.

I do want to mention something about the terms that we're using today. We're using them strictly in a historical context, as these were terms that were used several hundred years ago. But even today they carry a distinct racial tone. And they're considered to be quite racist and perhaps hurtful to those that they're directed at. So I do want to make a note that we're strictly using these in a historical context and in no way condoning their usage today.

The big idea for today is casta paintings are reminders of the efforts to stratify the racial makeup of the Spanish colonies and create a social hierarchy. So we'll be looking at the time period during the 18th century which is when casta paintings were being created in the New World Spanish colonies. And we'll again be returning to Mexico today.

So with the establishment of a New Spain far removed from the European continent it was necessary to create a form of government to run the colonies while still answering to the Spanish kingdom. The viceroyalty of New Spain was established in 1535 and lasted until 1821. It was during this time that social stratification was employed as a way of maintaining order in the eyes of the Spanish, at least, and as a way of limiting the indigenous influence on the authority of the Spanish government and control.

The stratification resulted in different castes, or castas, being established that were dependent upon your racial heritage. Casta paintings were a reflection of the stratification and show how strongly the influence of perceived stereotypes of various racial combinations that existed throughout the colonies. Now, this system was based on racial hierarchy.

And it became even more stratified with the Bourbon reforms under the Spanish kings Charles III and Charles IV during the 18th century. The reforms effectively limited the participation of non Spanish peoples or non Spanish of origin in the government in what was believed by the Spanish government as a way of strengthening their position in the New World.

There were four primary racial groups. And each of these paintings shows a particular combination of mother and father and the resulting offspring. Now as we move through these examples, notice how the subject matter which emphasizes race and class stereotypes also depicts scenes of everyday life much in the same way that Dutch genre paintings do. Now, the Spanish variant of the genre painting is called costumbrismo. Each title of the painting also refers to the parental combination and the resulting offspring in a sort of really perverse racial math in what was perceived to be, however, accurate for the time.

Now, keep in mind two important things as we continue. First, the deeply racist nature of the paintings, and consider the possible effects on the psyche of the viewer particularly in their depiction with respect the clothing living conditions like in this example here. And secondly, that these are a form of propaganda portrayed as familial portraits. The title is painted on the image which makes clear their overall purpose.

De Mestizo y d'India Coyote essentially translate to Mestizo, which is a person of European and indigenous descent, and Indian, native to Mesoamerica, Beget, , or begetting a Coyote, the offspring of that union. Now, this image is titled Las Castas, which translates to The Castes and serves as a sort of chart of racial pairings as well as their place in society. Now, this painting is the only one known, or the only one that we have today by a known artist. And it translates to From Spaniard and Morisca, which is a descendant of the Moors who converted to Christianity, Albino, basically a white child born from a Spaniard and Morisca.

Now, this final image, De Negro y Espanola, Sale Mulatto, essentially, From Black and Spanish Begets a Mulatto. It was an interesting depiction from after the aforementioned Bourbon reforms. Now, though racist overtones exist, the family is dressed in European style clothing showing the influence of the Spanish government and the submission of the colonists to, at least in the eyes of the Spanish, the refinement of European culture. It's another example of art reflecting the social behaviors of the time, and an unfortunate but important reminder of the human history of perceived racial superiority.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain how Casta Paintings depicted the social stratification of the Spanish New World colonies? Can you identify examples of Casta Paintings? And once again, our big idea for today is that Casta Paintings are reminders of the efforts to stratify the racial makeup of the Spanish colonies and create a social hierarchy. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Casta Painting"

Key Terms

Casta Painting

A type of painting that was common in Mexico in the 18th century that depicts a racially mixed family, consisting of the two parents (of different races) and their child.

Viceroyalty

The territory controlled by a person who rules in place of the king or queen.

Criollo

A person of Spanish descent born and raised in the New World.

Costumbrismo

The depiction of scenes of everyday life, the Spanish equivalent of genre painting in Dutch art.

Mestiza/o

In the casta system, a person with one European and one indigenous parent.

Mullata/o

In the casta system, a person with with one European and one African parent.

Peninsulares

People originally born in Spain.

Citations

Image of Mexico City Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distrito_Federal_en_M%C3%A9xico.svgImage of Las Castas, PD-1923, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Casta_painting_all.jpg;

Image of Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz, From Spaniard and Morisca, Albino, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juan_Patricio_Morlete_Ruiz_%28attributed_to%29_-_Casta_Painting_%28From_Spaniard_and_Morisca,_Albino%29_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg; Image of Miguel Cabrera, De Mestizo y d’India, Coyote, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cabrera_15_Coyote.jpg; Image of De Negro y Española, Sale Mulatto, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mulatto.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Casta Painting

    A type of painting that was common in Mexico in the 18th century that depicts a racially mixed family, consisting of the two parents (of different races) and their child.

  • Viceroyalty

    The territory controlled by a person who rules in place of the king or queen.

  • Criollo

    A person of Spanish descent born and raised in the New World.

  • Costumbrismo

    The depiction of scenes of everyday life, the Spanish equivalent of genre painting in Dutch art.

  • Mestiza/o

    In the casta system, a person with one European and one indigenous parent.

  • Mullata/o

    In the casta system, a person with with one European and one African parent.

  • Peninsulares

    People originally born in Spain.