Spanish Colonial Art

Notable for its cultural and temporal range and artistic quality, the Spanish Colonial collection of the Denver Art Museum is the most comprehensive collection in the United States and one of the best in the world.

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Jan & Frederick Mayer Galleries of Pre-Columbian & Spanish Colonial Art, Level 4, North Building

In 1993, the department collections (more than 6,000 objects) were reorganized and reinstalled in the Jan and Frederick Mayer Galleries of Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art. Included are paintings,sculpture, furniture, silver, and decorative arts from the Spanish Colonial period, as well as pre-Columbian masterworks in ceramic, stone, gold, jade, and textiles.

The Collection

Notable for its cultural and temporal range and artistic quality, the Spanish Colonial art collection of the Denver Art Museum is the most comprehensive collection in the United States and one of the best in the world. Spanning three and a half centuries (c. 1492-1850), the collection of over 3,000 objects represents the diverse cultures and geographic areas of Latin America including Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentine, Chile, and the southwestern United States. Containing painting, sculpture, silver and gold work, furniture, ivory and alabaster objects, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, and other decorative and utilitarian objects, the collection is especially strong in Mexican colonial paintings from the Frederick and Jan Mayer Collection and South American paintings from the Freyer and Stapleton collections.

The collection at the DAM includes many unusual and distinctively American objects such as Aztec-style feather paintings, small copper paintings worn as brooches by nuns, an Asian-influenced painted folding screen depicting a garden party, oil-on-canvas paintings embellished with applied gold leaf, and panel paintings inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The depth and breadth of the paintings collection is complemented by its artistic quality; the major stylistic movements and workshops are well represented, in many cases with signature pieces such as the Virgin of Málaga by Bolivian artist Luis Niño, Madonna and Child with Bird by Peruvian Ignacio Chacón, and Saint Michael and the Bull by Mexican artist Sebastián López de Arteaga.

Initiated in 1936 with a gift from Anne Evans of santos from southern Colorado and New Mexico, the Spanish Colonial collection has grown dramatically over the years to include more than 3,000 objects. Acquisition of the Frank Barrows Freyer Memorial Collection of colonial paintings, sculpture, and furniture, collected in Peru and Bolivia in the 1920s, commenced in 1968. In 1990, the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art gifted its extensive collection of colonial art from northern South America. Acquired between 1895 and 1914 by Daniel C. Stapleton, the collection’s donation was made possible by the Renchard family of Washington, D.C. In addition, an exemplary collection of Spanish Colonial silver from the Robert Appleman family and major gifts of Mexican Colonial painting and decorative arts from Frederick and Jan Mayer have greatly enriched the collection. As a result of the generosity of Frederick and Jan Mayer, the Denver Art Museum has the only curator devoted exclusively to Spanish Colonial art in the United States, Dr. Donna Pierce.

Department of Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art

The Visit the pre-Columbian Art page to learn more about the department of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial art.

The Frederick and Jan Mayer Center for Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art

The Frederick and Jan Mayer Center for Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum is committed to increasing awareness and promoting scholarship in these fields by sponsoring scholarly activities including annual symposia, fellowships, study trips, and publications. The Mayer Center is administered by the department of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial art at the DAM. For further information see http://mayercenter.denverartmuseum.org.

Mayer Center symposia are held annually, alternating between pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial topics. Recent Spanish Colonial symposia topics:

  • At the Crossroads: The Arts of Spanish America and Early Global Trade, 1492-1850, 2010
  • The Arts of South America, 1492-1850, 2008

  • Asia and Spanish America: Trans-Pacific Artistic and Cultural Exchange, 1500-1850, 2006

  • Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life, 1521-1821, 2004

  • Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art in the Collections at the Denver Art Museum, 2002

Upcoming symposium: Festivals and Daily Life in Colonial Latin America, November 2012 (dates tbd)

Publications

Recent Mayer Center publications on Spanish Colonial art are available for purchase in the Museum Shop and include:

Support Group

Alianza de las Artes Americanas is the support group for the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. Alianza organizes an annual lecture series as well as other events, and sponsors an Alianza-Mayer Scholarship. For more information, visit http://www.alianza-dam.org/. Read more about it and all DAM support groups on the Support Groups page.

Current Staff

  • Donna Pierce, Ph.D., Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art
  • Margaret Young-Sánchez, Ph.D., Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art
  • Michael Brown, Ph.D., Mayer Curatorial Scholar
  • Julie Wilson Frick, Mayer Center Program Coordinator
  • Patricia Tomlinson, Curatorial Assistant
  • Anne Tennant, Research Associate
  • Jana Gottshalk, Research Assistant
  • Heather Nielsen, Master Teacher

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