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Tesoros/Treasures/Tesouros: The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820
September 20, 2006 - December 31, 2006
Saint Michael Archangel
Saint Michael Archangel
Melchor Pérez Holguín (Bolivian)
Oil on canvas
Museo Nacional de Arte, La Paz, Bolivia
Tesoros/Treasures/Tesouros: The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820
September 20, 2006 - December 31, 2006

Drawn from public and private collections throughout the Americas and in Europe, Tesoros / Treasures / Tesouros: The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820 is a pan-national exhibition spanning the centuries from the arrival of Columbus to the emergence of national independence movements. It features some 250 works of art created in what is today the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Exhibition Minutes

The complex story of cultures and art…
Listen to or download curator Joseph Rishel’s 4-part Podcast.
Available in Exhibition Minutes Podcast - iTunes

Magnificent—and often startling—works of art in all mediums are presented in this exhibition, from spectacular examples of painting and sculpture to feather-work, shell-inlaid furniture, objects in gold and silver, ceramics, and textiles. Manuscripts and maps are also included to illustrate how the earliest contact between Europeans and indigenous populations created a crisis in identity and self-representation that eventually lead to a new culture, born of a mix of creative energies, confidently expressed in the arts. Superb examples of craftsmanship reflect the interchange between diverse cultures, and although many of the objects on view were created by indigenous, mestizo, and European artists whose names have been long forgotten, visitors may also become familiar with artists whose oeuvres, while well known in their native lands, are new to the majority of them.


These extraordinary objects were created in New Spain, which today comprises Mexico and the countries of Central America (see gray section on map); Peru, which is now the countries of Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and parts of Chile and Argentina (see orange section on map); and the Portuguese colony of Brazil (see green section on map).

Joseph J. Rishel, the Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has lead an international team of scholars from the U.S., Europe, and Central and South America in collaboration and research in this unprecedented exhibition. According to Rishel, “This exhibition is the first to disregard the boundaries created in the early nineteenth century during the birth of independent nation states in Latin America. It is a major reappraisal and gives our visitors an opportunity to make fresh discoveries among a dazzling array of remarkable works of art.”

Download teaching materials related to the exhibition.


The international tour of the exhibition is made possible by Fundación Televisa.

Mexico Tourism

The exhibition is also supported by an indemnity from the U. S. Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and funding from the Mexico Tourism Board. Initial scholarly research was supported by a Collaborative Research Grant from The Getty Foundation; funding for conservation was provided in part by the Huber Family Foundation and the Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Foundation.

In Philadelphia, the exhibition is made possible by The Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions, the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Popular Financial Holdings, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connelly Foundation, The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Martha Hamilton Morris and I. Wistar Morris III, Paul K. Kania, Marilynn and Carl Thoma, The Brook J. Lenfest Foundation, Vivian W. Piasecki, and other generous individuals. Promotional support is provided by NBC 10 WCAU and Amtrak. Al Día is the print media sponsor.

The organizers are grateful for the special collaboration of the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA), the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico.


The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


Joseph J. Rishel • The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum


Dorrance Special Exhibitions Galleries, first floor


Philadelphia Museum of Art • September 20–December 31, 2006
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City • Winter–Spring 2007
Los Angeles County Museum of Art • Summer, 2007