CUIRIS, Juan Bautista
(active 1590s in Michoacán, Mexico)

Portrait of Christ Made of Humming Bird and Parrot Feathers

Feathers on copper support, 25 x 18 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The picture represents an "Indian" feather picture, in which the pictorial motif is composed of many small, colourfully dazzling bird feathers. It originates from Michoacán, Mexico, where the pre-Hispanic art of feather painting flourished in the early colonial period under the auspices of Bishop Vasco de Quiroga (1470-1565) at trade schools attached to the region's Augustinian monasteries, particularly the one in Tiripetio, and later in workshops in other towns around Lake Pátzcuaro. The shown example and its companion piece representing the Weeping Virgin, were signed by Juan Bautista Cuiris.

The inspiration for the feather mosaics was traced back to engravings executed in Rome by the French-born engraver Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622) around 1590, Thomassin, who was close to the circle of Giulio Romano and Antonio Tempesta, based the engravings on drawings by the miniaturist Giulio Clovio. The relative speed with which these Italian Mannerist images traveled to Michoacán and back again to Europe - probably passing through Spain before ultimately enriching the Kunstkammer of Rudolph II in Vienna - is an interesting example of artistic diffusion in the sixteenth century.

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