It is an understatement to say that Susan Verdi Webster’s new book exponentially expands our knowledge of early colonial Quito artists, their working practices, and their socio-cultural milieu. Through the book’s eight chapters, the names of fifty creative practitioners active in Quito between 1550 and 1650 are resurrected from historical oblivion. Through Webster’s scouring of the notarial archives, we are privy to information about a variety of artistic genres and the early art market. We also learn that, while artists were schooled in music, dance, calligraphy, painting, gilding, woodworking, and sculpture, there was no Quito school per se.

Webster’s new book overturns previous notions about the anonymity of artists in early colonial Quito. While artists’ signatures are infrequent on extant paintings, they are common on contracts that detail aspects of commissions. “The dearth of archival research on painters in early colonial Quito...

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