Jan & Frederick Mayer Galleries of Pre-Columbian & Spanish Colonial Art, Level 4, North Building
Notable for its cultural and temporal range and artistic quality, the Spanish Colonial collection of the Denver Art Museum is the most comprehensive collection in the United States and one of the best in the world.
Spanning three and a half centuries (c. 1492-1850), the collection of over 3,000 objects represents the diverse cultures and geographic areas of Latin America including Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentine, Chile, and the southwestern United States.
Initiated in 1936 with a gift from Anne Evans of santos from southern Colorado and New Mexico, the Spanish Colonial collection has grown dramatically over the years to include more than 3,000 objects. Acquisition of the Frank Barrows Freyer Memorial Collection of colonial paintings, sculpture, and furniture, collected in Peru and Bolivia in the 1920s, commenced in 1968. In 1990, the Stapleton Foundation of Latin American Colonial Art gifted its extensive collection of colonial art from northern South America. Acquired between 1895 and 1914 by Daniel C. Stapleton, the collection’s donation was made possible by the Renchard family of Washington, D.C. In addition, an exemplary collection of Spanish Colonial silver from the Robert Appleman family and major gifts of Mexican Colonial painting and decorative arts from Frederick and Jan Mayer have greatly enriched the collection.
The collection includes many unusual and distinctively American objects such as Aztec-style feather paintings, small copper paintings worn as brooches by nuns, an Asian-influenced painted folding screen depicting a garden party, oil-on-canvas paintings embellished with applied gold leaf, and panel paintings inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The depth and breadth of the paintings collection is complemented by its artistic quality; the major stylistic movements and workshops are well represented, in many cases with signature pieces such as the Virgin of Málaga by Bolivian artist Luis Niño, Madonna and Child with Bird by Peruvian Ignacio Chacón, and Saint Michael and the Bull by Mexican artist Sebastián López de Arteaga.
Things To Do
Art & About tours are designed for visitors with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia and their care partners. More
Join Teaching Specialist Molly Medakovich as she provides a glimpse into the daily life of 18th century Mexico as shown through casta paintings. More
In the decades following the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-1521), many pre-Columbian stone sculptures in the immediate vicinity of Mexico-Tenochtitlan were unmoored from their specific contexts, subjected to physical manipulations, and endowed with new functions. With the surviving evidence for reuse plentiful and diverse, this lecture by Sara Ryu will examine the afterlives of specific Mexica sculptures in the viceregal capital, and develop a sense of their distinct rhetorical strategies. More
In the middle of the eighteenth century, Franciscan martyr portraits became popular in monastic spaces of the Spanish viceroyalties of central Mexico. To visually construct the meritorious life of these martyrs, artists drew inspiration from hagiographic chronicles that featured the graphic depiction of the gruesome deaths of friars. More
During the Spanish Colonial period in Latin America (1521–1850), precious gold and silver were crafted into elegant jewelry then embellished with emeralds from Colombia, coral from Mexico, and pearls from Venezuela. Wanting to demonstrate their wealth and status, people were painted wearing their finest dress and elaborate jewelry. More
News & Stories
Art conservation is a field that encompasses a breadth of expertise. As we roll up our sleeves in anticipation of improvements and potential discoveries, a plan that will provide optimum preservation is essential. More
Thanks to a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project, the museum is conserving a painting from the 1700s. More
Celebra tu creatividad y cultura cada primer sábado del mes con actividades bilingües para toda la familia. Visítanos el 5 de noviembre y participa en las siguientes actividades. More
Nuestra segunda artista de la serie, Danette Montoya, empezará la instalación de Las almas de los muertos el 18 de octubre, la cual se transformará a lo largo de cuatro semanas. More
Meet our next Cuatro artist Danette Montoya and see her installation Las Almas de los Muertos. More
Gracias a una beca del Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), el Denver Art Museum trabajará con cuatro artistas locales para presentar el programa Cuatro : A Series of Artist Interactions durante el próximo año. More
Scholars wishing to access the New World Department collections and/or library holdings must contact the Mayer Center well in advance of a visit. If approval for study is granted, the collection/library will be made available as the staff of the DAM's schedule permits. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Mayer Center Fellow Program
This program is designed to support scholarly research related to the museum’s collections of pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art and to provide curatorial experience to art historians.
The Mayer Center Scholarship
The scholarship, established in honor of Frederick and Jan Mayer and sponsored by Alianza de las Artes Americanas, is awarded biennially to a doctoral student. It includes a stipend and two weeks of access to the museum's New World collection.
Recent Mayer Center publications on Spanish Colonial art are available for purchase in The Shop and include:
- Companion to Glitterati: Portraits & Jewelry from Colonial Latin America at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Donna Pierce and Julie Wilson Frick. Denver Art Museum, 2015.
- Festivals & Daily Life in the Arts of Colonial Latin America, 1492–1850. Edited by Donna Pierce. Denver Art Museum, 2014.
- Companion to Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum. Donna Pierce. Denver Art Museum, 2011; reprinted 2015.
- At the Crossroads: The Arts of Spanish America & Early Global Trade, 1492–1850. Papers from the 2010 Mayer Center Symposium at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Donna Pierce and Ronald Y. Otsuka. Denver Art Museum, 2012.
- The Arts of South America, 1492–1850: Papers from the 2008 Mayer Center Symposium at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Donna Pierce. Denver Art Museum, 2010.
- Asia and Spanish America: Trans-Pacific Artistic and Cultural Exchange, 1500–1850: Papers from the 2006 Mayer Center Symposium at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Donna Pierce and Ronald Y. Otsuka. Denver Art Museum, 2009.
- Exploring New World Imagery: Spanish Colonial Papers from the 2002 Mayer Center Symposium at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Donna Pierce. Denver Art Museum, 2005.
- Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life, 1521-1821. Donna Pierce, Clara Bargellini and Rogelio Ruiz Gomar. Denver Art Museum, 2004.
- Jorge Rivas Pérez, Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art
- Victoria Lyall, Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art
- Julie Wilson Frick, Mayer Center Program Coordinator
- Jesse Laird Ortega, Curatorial Assistant
- Anne Tennant, Research Associate
- Heather Nielsen, Associate Director of Learning and Engagement
- Margaret Young-Sánchez, Ph.D., Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art 1999-2016
- Donna Pierce, Ph.D., Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art 1999-2015
- Gordon McEwan, Ph.D., Curator 1991-1998
- Robert Stroessner, Curator 1968-1991
Mayer Center symposia are held annually, alternating between pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial topics.
Past Spanish Colonial symposia topics include:
- Circulación: Movement of Ideas, Art and People in Spanish America (2016)
- New England / New Spain: Portraiture in the Colonial Americas, 1492-1850 (2014)
- Festivals and Daily Life in the Arts of Colonial Latin America (2012)
- At the Crossroads: The Arts of Spanish America and Early Global Trade, 1492-1850 (2010)
- The Arts of South America, 1492-1850 (2008)
- Asia and Spanish America: Trans-Pacific Artistic and Cultural Exchange, 1500-1850 (2006)
- Painting a New World: Mexican Art and Life, 1521-1821 (2004)
- Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art in the Collections at the Denver Art Museum (2002)