Francisco Clapera, Set of Sixteen Casta paintings, c. 1775, 51.1 x 39.6 cm (Denver Art Museum). Speakers: Sabina Kull, Meyer Center Fellow, Denver Art Museum and Beth Harris.
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Francisco Clapera, casta paintings
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Casta paintings were based on which of the following?
Census reports from colonial territories
Scientific studies of different groups of people based on ethnic heritage
Stereotypes about race and class that bore little resemblance to reality
Written descriptions of colonists from viceroyalty officials
Casta paintings were likely created for what kind of audience?
Scientists in New Spain
The general public
Wealthy Spanish patrons
All of the following describe social class distinctions in casta paintings except
The clothing of the figures
The size of the painting
The activities being performed
The skin color of the figures
Which ethnic group was likely least numerous in New Spain?
Spanish people born in the Americas
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New Spain was a viceroyalty of the Spanish empire. The presence of people of many different ethnic backgrounds and their relative social mobility in New Spain prompted Spanish anxiety about racial mixing and a desire to maintain social hierarchies that privileged European lineage.
Casta paintings used labels and visual details such as different skin tones, dress, occupations, and settings to distinguish ethnicity and to signal economic and class divisions. These images did not reflect reality so much as represent stereotypes arranged along a biased, hierarchical scale.
Francisco Clapera was involved in the founding of an art academy in New Spain. It is likely that many casta paintings were produced for export back to Spain, as part of an effort by artists in the viceroyalty to demonstrate their skill and sophistication, as well as the wealth and productivity of New Spain.
Cite this page as: Julie Wilson Frick, Denver Art Museum, Sabena Kull and Dr. Beth Harris, "Francisco Clapera, set of sixteen casta paintings," in Smarthistory, September 12, 2020, accessed July 2, 2022, https://smarthistory.org/francisco-clapera-casta/.
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