Ellis Dissertation Award-winner Emily C. Floyd reports on ACHA-funded research

Emily C. Floyd
Emily C. Floyd

Emily C. Floyd, the 2014 recipient of the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award, is  a PhD candidate in the joint program in Latin American Studies and Art History at Tulane University.  Her PhD dissertation project, currently in progress, is titled “Matrices of Devotion: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Limeñian Devotional Prints and Local Religion in the Viceroyalty of Peru.”  The project centers on devotional prints made in Lima that depict saints and advocations of Christ and the Virgin specific to the Viceroyalty of Peru.  Her report follows.

The story of print culture in the Viceroyalty of Peru predates even the Viceroyalty’s foundation. Prints accompanied the conquistadors under Pizarro throughout the conquest of the Incas and founding of new cities. European prints flooded into Peru, becoming active agents in the creation of the culture of the Viceroyalty. They were the tools of architects, painters, and carvers of altarpieces; they aided priests in explaining Christianity to the indigenous and African populations. With the arrival of printer Antonio Ricardo to Lima from Mexico City in 1584, however, prints also began to be produced locally within Lima, offering competing options for colonial religious consumers.

Many scholars have documented the significance of imported European prints, but few scholars have been concerned with local prints, despite their in some ways greater cultural importance. The accessibility, ubiquity, portability, and subject matter of prints made in Lima gave them a central role in the creation of a shared Catholic sacred geography specific to the Viceroyalty of Peru. Europe had its own sacred geography of major and minor shrines that hallowed the landscape and helped center imagined communities, both uniting the continent in devotion to major saints and binding smaller villages, towns, and regions around lesser-known holy figures. European religious prints imported to the Americas typically refer to these devotions; prints made in Lima overwhelmingly represent local saints and advocations of Christ and the Virgin. Lima’s prints were uniquely situated to help Christianize a landscape already imbued with Andean indigenous forms of the sacred, in which streams, rocks, mountains, and lakes all might be numinous huacas. Merchants, priests, and other travelers could easily bring tens or thousands of prints with them as they moved from one end of the Viceroyalty to another, thus forging connections between devotees and shrines in far-flung parts of the Viceroyalty. Because prints were both inexpensive and numerous, they promoted regionally-based devotions to a broad swath of society. Less-privileged individuals who might only be able to see other art forms in public contexts such as within churches or during processions could easily afford prints. The impact of Lima’s prints on religion throughout the Viceroyalty tells the story of the rise of a local Catholic devotional geography while simultaneously underscoring Lima’s often similarly unrecognized central position as a site for the production of pan-viceregal cultural products.

In order to tell this story, my dissertation requires research in collections and archives throughout the United States, Europe, and South America. As these prints have been little studied, an important element of this work is identifying prints and assembling a corpus, but I also mine the archival and textual record for information on how prints were used, produced, and circulated throughout the colonial period. I am grateful to the ACHA for its support; the John Tracy Ellis award has made an important contribution to this research. Along with funds from Tulane University’s School of Liberal Arts, the award has allowed me to spend all of summer 2015 working fruitfully in libraries and archives in Seville, Madrid, Paris, and London.