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The Colonial Architecture of Mexicoby James Early
Synopses & Reviews
A passion for Mexican architecture drives James Early's examination of the most notable post-Columbian architecture constructed on the American continent prior to the emergence north of the border of Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.<P>In colorful and lucid prose Early introduces his subject with an overview of the city of Mexico and surrounding areas at the time of the first Spanish contact, discussing two great programs of building that followed and the patterns of living associated with them. The text is roughly chronological, with emphasis on the Baroque period and concluding with the Neo-Classical architecture of the nineteenth century.<P>Organized into chapters alternating between civic and sacred architecture, Early looks at the grandeur of religious edifices of New Spain — from the Gothic churches of the friars and the Renaissance cathedrals of the cities to the Baroque sacred chapels and Neo-Classical parish churches — and describes the great haciendas and magnificent city houses of some of the enormously wealthy families such as the Condes del Valle de Orizaba. He places Mexico's architectural developments in a cultural context, discussing, for example, convent life for nuns and the cults of the saints and the Virgin. In addition, Early includes a chapter on folk architecture describing the energy and imaginative vitality of Mexican viceregal ornamentation.<P>Early provides a lively analysis of such elaborately decorated churches as the Rosario Chapel in Puebla and the Jesuit buildings at Tepotzotlan. His enthusiasm for aesthetic elements such as interlacing strapwork and rippling pediments is contagious. Early is eloquent in his descriptionsof the splendid churches of eighteenth-century Mexico that were grounded on the wealth of its silvermines, paying particular attention to the spectacular Church of Santa Prisca in Taxco and its remarkable patron. Jose de la Borda.<P>The first of only two histories written in
Book News Annotation:
The low price and rather poor color of the otherwise clear plates of this paperback reprint should not deter interested readers from acquiring this otherwise very fine text. Early (Southern Methodist U.) has written a thorough and thoughtful account of Mexico's colonial architecture, one that demonstrates a wide knowledge and mature understanding of the topic. The material is organized by both context and chronology; part of the text's richness comes from Early's consistent attention to the role of patrons and audience as he relates the history of these buildings and their architects.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 209-213) and index.
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