Casta Painting is the most fascinating pictorial genre in Mexican art history. Born in New Spain at the beginning of the 18th century and, most likely, died out towards the end of that century, certainly before the advent of Mexican independence in 1821.
It is a genre of increasing interest, leading to new pieces gradually appearing on the market, such as the Buenaventura José Guiol series, which is the subject of this catalogue. Although today the casta paintings of the Americas far exceed the price of many works with religious themes, this was not always so. For example, in the literature dedicated to Mexican art in the viceregal (colonial) period and particularly in Manuel Toussaint’s reference work Arte colonial en México (Colonial Art in Mexico) (1963), it was not even mentioned. However, later publications, including that of Efraín Castro Morales in 19833, Concepción García Sáiz in “Las castas mexicanas, un género pictórico americano” (“The Mexican Castas, a pictorial American genre”) of 19894 and “La Pintura de Castas” (“Casta Painting”) by Ilona Katzew in 20045, the main academic reference nowadays, have come to fill this gap, raising new questions and reflections as the market surprises us with the emergence of new and more complex collections of castas.
Casta paintings or paintings of mestizaje unions, typically produced using oil on canvas or, on some occasions, on copper, consist of a series of images representing the racial mixes arising in New Spain from three primary racial groups: Spaniards, American Indians and Blacks, giving rise to numerous types. Some fifty possibilities have been counted6. A typical series covers sixteen basic types although the largest known series comprises twenty paintings.