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Abused and battered: Printed images and the female body in viceregal new Spain

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Chapter Summary

Printed images arrived in the Americas with the conquistadores. By the mid-sixteenth century, Mexican artists added their own efforts to the imported woodcuts and engravings circulating in the viceroyalty. Images of holy women numbered among local and imported prints and supported Church agendas. The most common female subject was the Virgin Mary in her various advocations. The images of the Virgin and female saints bore implicit messages of a normative womanhood that also served the purposes of Church and State. Mexicans abused printed images of holy persons, both male and female, in many bizarre ways. They ripped them, whipped them, threw them, burned them, dismembered them, used them in scatological acts, and wore them on their bodies. The attackers (or their accusers) understood the potent associations of printed images of this female body as supposedly truthful symbols of colonial womanhood and of an orderly and divinely sanctioned colonial society.

Keywords: Church; female saint; Mexicans; printed images; viceroyalty; Virgin Mary



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