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Jaime Lara awarded Guggenheim for study of “flying Francis” in Colonial Andes

Jaime Lara, lecturer in Christian art and architecture at the Institute of Sacred Music and YDS, has been named a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for next year.  A total of just 180 fellowships were awarded from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. Lara, who will leave Yale at the end of the 2008-09 academic year, has chosen as his fellowship topic Flying Francis: Catastrophes, Insurrections, and Art in the Colonial Andes.

LaraHe has also been awarded a National Humanities Center Fellowship (Research Triangle, NC) and is one of four scholars chosen nationwide for the Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Lara was interviewed earlier this month on WNPR public radio in Connecticut.  The interview is available by clicking here.  In addition, a slide show of a March 30-April 24 exhibition at ISM by Lara and photographer Robert Lisak -- The Flowering Cross: Holy Week in an Andean Village Exhibition of Photography with Commentary – is available on the America magazine site here.

Following is Lara’s description of his fellowship project:

“In the last several years I have studied a group of paintings and sculptures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that are extant in Franciscan convents and churches in the Andes.  It was soon after the year 1600 that a new iconography of St. Francis of Assisi developed there depicting him as a swordsman, warrior, eschatological prophet, and flying angel with wings.  In these paintings, St. Francis is anachronistically accompanied by one of the ancient Sibyls, and by the medieval prophet Joachim of Fiore (the creator of a Trinitarian schema of world history), who was understood to have prophesized the coming of Francis.  This new iconography was, in part, the result of late medieval hagiography; but it also fostered a new literature on Francis that thrived in Counter-Reformation polemics.

“The reason for the appearance of this new imagery at this moment is complex and layered.  The two centuries witnessed natural catastrophes in the Andes:  multiple earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which were understood as divine punishment for the sins of Spaniards and Indians alike in the light of the events of the book of Revelation.  There were frequent insurrections of native peoples who now used the rhetoric of the Christian Apocalypse (especially that of warrior angels) against their European overlords.  Moreover, the status of the Franciscans in colonial society had changed drastically under the Bourbon monarchy in Spain, endangering their influence among native people; and for most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were engaged in a bitter rivalry with other religious orders, principally with the Dominicans over the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.  By graphically presenting St. Francis as the bellicose Angel of the Apocalypse, the Franciscans were able to assert their unique privileges, chastise their rivals, and re-channel native agitation.  The iconography that I have documented and photographed has no precedent in European art, but rather is one that is exclusive to Latin America.”

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