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.
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 email@example.com 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:
- 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.
The department of pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art at the Denver Art Museum was established in 1968, bringing together pre-Columbian (before 1492) and Spanish Colonial objects from Latin America. Curator Robert Stroessner worked with donors in Denver and beyond to acquire objects in all media. Dr. Gordon McEwan served as curator from 1991 to 1998. He was succeeded by Dr. Donna Pierce (Spanish Colonial) and Dr. Margaret Young-Sánchez (pre-Columbian), both of whom joined the museum in 1999. Today the department’s combined collections cover a time span from about 1200 B.C. to the present. It is the finest collection of its type in the United States. In many areas, its holdings are the most comprehensive outside the countries of origin. At no other museum in the Americas can visitors appreciate and compare stylistic movements from all the major artistic centers of Latin America.
- Donna Pierce, Ph.D., Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art
- Margaret Young-Sánchez, Ph.D., 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
Mayer Center symposia are held annually, alternating between pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial topics. Recent Spanish Colonial symposia topics:
- 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)