Richard Boyle’s Spanish Colonial Art book donation


Donation label designed by the Faculty of Art & Architecture Library, Cambridge (based on original from Richard Boyle)

Richard Boyle, an enthusiast of Spanish Colonial art history, recently donated 88 Spanish colonial art books to the University Library in honor of his wife Marlene de Block. This is a significant donation, as there were very few volumes on colonial Latin American art and are mostly North American publications. Until now, the University Library and the Centre of Latin American studies collections mainly focused on nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin America.

This exceptional donation includes Spanish publications from Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries, unavailable in most European national libraries. This is a unique opportunity for the development of colonial Latin American art studies in the United Kingdom.

Since Richard Boyle had especially strong connections with Peru and Ecuador, there are more publications from these countries. Amongst the highlights, which include scholarly essays and catalogues on viceregal art, are: Perú: Fe y arte en el virreynato (1999), Arte colonial de Ecuador: Siglos XVI- XVIII (1977), Arte colonial quiteño (1965) and Arte del Perú colonial (1958). Of particular interest are Fray José María Vargas Arevelo’s (1902–1988) publications, a great promoter of Ecuadorian colonial art. There is also an extensive bibliography on Latin American convents and colonial architecture dealing with architectural styles such as mudéjar, churrigueresque, baroque and plateresque. Most books have more images than text, which is also a crucial resource, as many Latin American convents and monasteries have hardly been photographed. One visually rich volume is Tunja. El arte de los siglos XVI-XVII (1989). This Colombian city has some of the most vibrantly painted colonial churches and convents in Latin America, with splendid mudéjar ceilings (Christianized Islamic style imported from Spain). Below I include an image from the book of the Church of Santa Clara la Real (Tunja).


Santa Clara la Real (Tunja), from

Most significantly, renowned Pre-Colombian and colonial art historian Pal Kelemen’s (1894-1993) books Art of the Americas: Ancient and Hispanic (1969) and Vanishing Art of the Americas (1977) are two other crucial additions, which were missing from the UL collection. Alongside other volumes, these also include Pre-Columbian and folk art. As for the decorative arts, there are numerous publications on Peruvian silverwork. Platería del Perú Virreinal: 1535-1825 (1997) offers the most comprehensive overview of silverwork from private and public collections and gives a brief outline of their provenance. Another notable incorporation is the Prado exhibition catalogue Pintura de los Reinos: Identidades compartidas en el mundo hispánico (2010), which has been the most recent and notable exhibition comparing European and colonial painting.


 Sandwiched between the Pre-Columbian civilizations and the Latin American Wars of Independence, the colonial period is often overlooked in the UK. This donation will hopefully promote this period, bringing colonial Latin American art scholars to Cambridge.

 Most of these books are available in the UL West Room. To search for the catalogued volumes, the advanced search option of the University Library’s new iDiscover platform is of much help. You can type the keywords “BOYLE, Richard J.” under author/creator and add “provenance” as a keyword in “any field”, then further filter your results to University Library holdings only (in the “Refine my results” column on the right). See a screenshot of how the search would look like below.


Guest author: Akemi Herráez Vossbrink

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