UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Philippines in microcosm : transcultural engagements and Catholic visual culture under Spanish imperialism (c. eighteenth-nineteenth centuries) Paglinawan, Alexi Louise Cordero


This thesis considers the visual production and culture of the Philippines from the Spanish colonial era (1521-1898). It aims at shedding further light on the complexities of Philippine art history as one that is both autonomous and transculturally intertwined with other histories. Through the concept of conversion as expanding beyond a mere shift in faith, I argue that the objects in focus are evidence of the shaping of the land and people of the Philippines as subordinates of the Spanish Empire. Emphasizing on the people’s conversion to the religion and culture of Catholic Spain, the analysis of religious imagery in the works of Jesuit Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde’s Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Yslas Filipinas (1734) in partnership with Filipino artisans, Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay and Francisco Suarez, and paintings using Catholic iconography—specifically of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) by an unknown Bohol Master (1830) and two renditions of the “triplet” Santisima Trinidad (Holy Trinity) also by unknown artists (c. late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century)—I illustrate how these objects articulate the various modes of conversion used under Spanish imperialism. Since Spanish imperialism cannot be disassociated from the use of the Catholic faith and the subsequent conversion of non-European communities, I examine the complex and contradictory impacts of nearly four centuries of Spanish colonialism on Philippine land, its peoples and their cultures. While I make references to the sixteenth century, this is to clearly outline the historical foundations of Spanish settlement in the Philippines, as it establishes the colonial regime in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from which the objects in focus date from.

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