Civilizing the prehispanic : neo-prehispanic imagery and constructions of nationhood in Porfirian Mexico (1876-1910)
This work looks at the artistic production of the Porfiriato (1876-1910) with particular attention to the representation of prehispanic cultures and their incorporation into an official historiography. Whilst highlighting the growing popularity of prehispanic and conquest themes, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the research centres on the study of what may be described as a 'neo-prehispanic' genre in order to explore issues of identity and nationalism in the arts. The use of academic styles for the artistic interpretation of prehispanic material coincides with an already growing concern to redefine prehispanic cultures as 'classical' civilisations. The neo-prehispanic as a style may therefore be understood as a reappropriation of the past via western canons and art schools, and the construction of a neo-prehispanic imagery as a means of 'cleansing' the barbaric. The analysis concentrates on the function of neo-prehispanic representations by looking at the reception of these images in relation to the aesthetic ideas operating at the time, and their production within the institutional framework of the Academy of San Cartos. It also looks at State-funded projects in order to highlight the cultural politics of the Porfiriato which sought to celebrate the cultural legacies of prehispanic Mexico. The study will hence seek to explore the particularities of a national style, the function of art in the Porfiriato, and the relationship between artistic production and the construction of a national identity. All of this will be looked at in relation to history painting, monuments and architecture. The main objectives of the research aim to be both practical (a catalogue of material 'Appendix B'), and interpretative. The correct cataloguing and identification of this material together with an analysis of their function within the context of Porfirian society will provide invaluable material for more research, and will constitute the original contribution of my PhD.