As Mrs. Weismann graciously indicates in her foreword, Don Manuel Toussaint was the presiding genius of colonial Mexican art history—through a rich and active life, unhappily cut short in 1955. His many roles—researcher, teacher, and administrator—are firmly institutionalized in the History of Art division of the University of Mexico, in numerous government agencies, and in the work of his colleagues and pupils. Incessant student of his country’s artistic heritage, he turned with greatest interest and sympathy to the period between about 1525 and 1810. (Although he had a marked feeling for the Indian contribution, he did not particularly emphasize the preconquest era.)
The present volume is an English translation of Toussaint’s monumental Arte Colonial, first published in 1948 (Mrs. Weismann, p. viii, says 1949). After the master’s untimely death, the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas of the National University published a new edition in more compact format, with additional illustrations and bibliography (1962). Mrs. Weismann has since made a thoughtful translation of this second Mexican edition, added significant new notes, and compiled a truly magnificent new bibliography. (That in the second Mexican edition was short, with only major books indicated.)
Many of the illustrations were taken from the Mexican for the English edition, and a few color plates were also directly transferred. The English edition has about fifty fewer black and white plates than the Mexican and nine rather than ten color plates. The printing techniques differ and in some instances the plates vary considerably in effect. On the whole, the new English edition provides a more selective group of illustrations, with particular improvement in suggestion of relative scale and size.
It would be meaningless to make page by page comparisons of the two editions, for both were prepared as testaments of personal devotion. What matters is that Mrs. Weismann has made the penetrating insights, the brilliantly humane judgments, and the intellectual and aesthetic integrity of Toussaint available to all students of Mexican art. Her translation is serious, direct, and essentially literal. Her scholarship is equally sound. She has produced an objective report, rather than a personal interpretation. The work of such a “reporter” is quietly concealed beneath the surface of the monument; Mrs. Weismann has produced a book which will allow Toussaint to speak as challengingly to a new generation as he did to his own. If that new generation can compare Toussaint’s findings with more recent research, it can produce the kind of sensitive, intuitive, yet solidly based interpretation that characterized his writings.