The Art and Architecture of the Texas Missions by Jacinto Quirarte (Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture, No. 6: University of Texas Press) This is a study of the art and architecture of the missions founded in Texas by Franciscan missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A formal and iconographic analysis of the extant churches and related buildings, their decorated surfaces, and the reconstructed altars with their religious images will allow us to determine their meaning and their value as art and architecture. A discussion of the sources and antecedents for the missions found in central and northern New Spain will permit us to place them within a broader historical and artistic context.
The primary focus here is on the art and architecture of the extant missions‑San Antonio de Valero, San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio and Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo in Goliad. Each is discussed in a single chapter with three parts that span the periods when they were constructed, then abandoned, and finally restored or reconstructed.
The former missions suffered after they were secularized (when their mission was completed or as the result of economic and/or political changes) and then abandoned. The first major changes occurred when San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was secularized in 1793, followed by most of the others in 1824. The most drastic change was the dismantling of the original altars with gilded architectural frames and sculptures and paintings. A few sculptures of the saints remain, but not in their original locations, as in the case of Espada. The sculptures at Capistrano have been placed in a recently acquired colonial altarpiece that has nothing to do with the eighteenth‑century mission. No altarpieces, sculptures, or paintings remain in the church sanctuaries of Valero and San Jose or in the sanctuary and transept of Concepcion.
The former missions suffered extensive damage caused by vandalism and deterioration in the nineteenth century due to neglect and the elements. Some of the facade sculptures were destroyed or damaged by gunfire or stolen, and only fragments of architectural polychromy survive. A few remnants of painting and sculpture remain in situ in some of the missions: a depiction of the Crucified Christ painted above a sculptured font in the St. Michael chapel, located in one of the belfry tower base rooms of the Concepcion mission, and other wall paintings in the other belfry tower base room originally used as the baptistry, and in the sacristy of the same mission.
Other changes occurred with the restoration of the missions. Although the structural aspects of the building interiors remain intact, the images and architectural details are no longer visible. The images of saints painted on the pendentives of the Concepci6n church disappeared long ago. The decorative details of the San Jose church interior also vanished but were partially restored in the twentieth century. In the late 1920s Ernst Schuchard did colored drawings of fragments of the original paintings, which were used to restore them in the 1930s. Most of the church interiors have been whitewashed. Finally, some of the churches were altered by well‑intentioned twentieth‑century restorers. Wrought‑iron railings and crosses were added where none had ever existed.
Regardless of the problems presented by the normal operation of the missions in the eighteenth century, the neglect of the nineteenth century, and the benevolent attention of the twentieth century, enough remains to warrant a study, analysis, and evaluation of the art and architecture of the missions.
Brief background information on the missionary enterprise is provided in the two chapters of Part One, in notes, and more fully in the appendices. A brief discussion of the many expeditions that began with the discovery of the Gulf Coast and culminated with the initial settlement of Texas in 1680 is included in the introduction to Chapter 2, which focuses on the founding and establishment of the first missions and presidios from 1659 to 1793. Chapter 2 provides background information on the Indians and the missionaries' efforts to convert them.
Part Two consists of eight chapters focusing on the art and architecture of the Texas missions. Chapters 3 through 8 deal with the six missions that have retained the original fabric of their churches and the configuration of their facades and also have a number of extant sculptures and paintings. The order of the discussion by chapter is based on the foundation dates (from earliest to latest) of the missions within each region. Each of the chapters devoted to the extant missions is comprised of three parts. The first part, based on colonial documents, provides a reconstruction of the missions in their original state from 1740 to 1824, when they were in full operation. The primary focus is on the mission architecture and the sacred images in the church altars during the years of their optimum condition. The second part, based on texts written by American and European travelers from 1840 to 1890, provides information on the state of the former missions when they were abandoned. The discussion reviews the earliest texts to the latest within each chapter. The third part provides information on the missions from 18go to the present, when they were restored. It is based on colonial documents, nineteenth‑century texts, paintings, and photographs, twentieth‑century texts on restoration, and reports on archaeological excavations. The critical analysis of the art and architecture of each mission also proceeds chronologically.
Chapter 9 deals with the content and meaning of the portal sculptures and polychromy and the reconstructed altarpieces. Chapter 10 summarizes the discussions of the original art and architecture, the former missions, and the restored art and architecture.
The appendices provide information on a census of the missions founded from 1680 to 1793 (except those included in the main body of the text) and the colonial reports and inventories, 1740‑1824, which document the manner in which the missions were monitored to insure that their assigned functions were successfully carried out.The Glossary includes definitions of art and architectural terms in English and Spanish along with other Hispanicized words used in the text derived from Mhuad, the language spoken by the Aztecs (such as Tequitqui, mitote, and xacal or jacal). It also includes words used to describe church furnishings, Christian themes, and holy days.
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