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Francisco Clapera, casta paintings
- 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.
More to think about
Casta paintings depicted stereotypes about race and social class in New Spain. How do we, today, perpetuate stereotypes about race, class, and identity in the United States?
Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:
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