Cuzco School Painting

by Dr. Lori Verderame

The art of the Cuzco School relates to style of Peruvian art that was prevalent after the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards. While largely unknown by name, the Cuzco School artists painted predominantly for private use and to have their largely religious works displayed in churches and cathedrals. The city of Cuzco was the ancient capital of the Incas. Cuzco is located about 365 miles southeast of Lima, Peru. The Incas dominated the region until the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532. The style of religious painting of the famed Cuzco School of artists reached its zenith during the 17th and 18th centuries.

How to Tell

Spanish colonial art flourished in the New World between the mid-16th and early-19th centuries, especially in Mexico and Peru, where native artists developed distinctive regional styles by combining native subjects with European artistic traditions. Peru’s colonial art tradition began in Cuzco, the former capital of the empire of the Incas. Soon, Cuzco became the main art center in the Andes highlands. The mestizo-baroque style that emerged there in the mid-17th century came to be called the Cuzco School. Characterized by elements such as direct portraits of the Virgin Mary, regional saints, and other figures, the style was best known as that of the Cuzco artists.

Tell tale signs of an authentic work by the Cuzco school artists are floral borders, vivid coloring, gold tooling, and gold-leaf overlay (brocateado de oro). The mestizo-baroque style became more elaborate as time went one and flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries in Peru.

Get an online appraisal of your Cuzco School painting from Dr. Lori.