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.
This exhibition showcases a painting from the DAM's Spanish Colonial art collection attributed to Cristóbal de Villalpando. This large-scale oil painting made in colonial Mexico around 1700 recently underwent conservation funded by a grant from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project. More
See how animals have captivated artists throughout history in the exhibition Stampede: Animals in Art. This cross-departmental exhibition brings together more than 300 objects from the Denver Art Museum’s collection to explore the presence of animals in art throughout centuries and across cultures. More
News & Stories
This fall and winter the Denver Art Museum has a blockbuster lineup of exhibitions offering something for everyone. Visit us during Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks. More
Watch videos that tell the story of how curators, conservators, and educators worked to conserve The Virgin of Valvanera on view through February 18, 2018. More
Reducing the varnish is one of the phases of conserving this painting from the 1700s. More
Examining the painting reveals that it is in remarkably good condition, especially since it's over 300 years old. More
This video shows the DAM's conservation and curatorial team visiting Mexico City to learn more about The Virgin of Valvanera. More
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
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:
- 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)