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The Cuzco School (Escuela Cuzqueña) was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition based in Cuscomarker, Perumarker (the former capital of the Inca Empire) during the Colonial period, in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was not limited to Cuzco only, but spread to other cities in the Andes, as well as to present day Boliviamarker and Ecuadormarker.


The tradition originated after the 1534 Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, and it is considered the first artistic center that systematically taught European artistic techniques in the Americas.

The Cusqueña paintings were a form of religious art whose main purpose was didactic. The Spanish, who aimed to convert the Incas to Catholicism, sent a group of religious artists to Cusco. These artists formed a school for Quechua people and mestizos, teaching them drawing and oil painting. The designation "Cusqueña," however, is not limited to the city of Cusco or to indigenous artists, as Spanish creoles participated in the tradition as well.

A major patron of the Cuzco artists was Bishop Manuel de Lollinedo y Angulo, who collected European art and made his collection available to Peruvian artists. He promoted and financially assisted such Cusqueña artists such as Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallao, Antonio Sinchi Roca Inka, and Marcos Rivera.

In 1688 Spanish-born and mestizo members of the Cuzco painting guild chose to break ranks with the Indian painters. This split led to the far more numerous Quechua Indian painters developing their own styles, based upon the latest European art works. They also created a tradition of painting Inca monarchs – a departure from Christian religious themes and an expression of cultural pride.


The defining characteristics of the Cusqueña style are believed to have originated in the art of Quechua painter Diego Quispe Tito.

Cusqueña paintings are characterized by their use of exclusively religious subjects, their lack of perspective, and the predominance of red, yellow and earth colors. They are also remarkable for their lavish use of gold leaf, especially with images of the Virgin Mary. Though the Cusqueño painters were familiar with prints of Byzantine, Flemish and Italian Renaissance art, their works were freer than those of their European tutors; they used bright colors and distorted, dramatic images. They often adapted the topics to depict their native flora and fauna as a backdrop in their works.

Warrior angels became a popular motif in Cusqueña paintings.

Most Cusqueña paintings were created anonymously because of Pre-Columbian traditions that define art as communal. An exception is one of the last members of the Cuzco School, Marcos Zapata (ca. 1710-1773). Other known artists of the Cuzco School include Diego Cusihuamán, Gregorio Gamarra, Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallao, and Antonio Sinchi Roca Inka.


The largest collection of paintings from the Cuzco school is in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo marker.

Image:Cusi Huarcay.jpg|
The Marriage of Captain Martin de Loyola to Beatriz Ñusta, detail, ca. 1675-1690, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, Cuzco
Our Lady of Bethelem, anonymous, 18th c.
Archangel Uriel, anonymous, 18th c.
St. Joseph with Child, anonymous, oil on canvas, 40.5" x 32.2", 18th c.
The Adoration of the Magi, anonymous, c.
File:Loyola y Coya.jpg|
Martín García de Loyola and Beatriz Clara Coya, Iglesia de la Compañía, Cuzco, 17th c.


  1. "The 'Cusquenha' Art." National Historical Museum of Brazil.
  2. Fane, p. 38
  3. Fane, pp. 39-40
  4. Bethell, p. 742
  5. Bakewell, p. 268
  6. Fane, p. 40


  • Bakewell, Peter J. A History of Latin America: C. 1450 to the Present. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0631231617.
  • Bethell, Leslie. The Cambridge History of Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0521245168.
  • Fane, Diana, ed. Converging Cultures: Art & Identity in Spanish America. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-87273-134-0.

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