Vicente Alban

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The figure of the neogranadino painter Vicente Albán (Quito, 1725) stands as an outstanding exponent of the Quito School in the eighteenth century. His paintings, framed in a context of change and discovery, have left a lasting mark on Spanish-American colonial art.
Albán is noted for his idealized paintings of the Yumbo Indians in their native attire. Although little is known of his life, it is known that he came from a family of painters, among whom Francisco Albán stands out. Juan de Velasco’s description of the competition between various modern painters, including Vicente Albán, offers a glimpse of his recognition at the time.
Vicente Albán’s work is intertwined with the history of the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada, an enlightened scientific enterprise that changed his artistic approach. Together with his brother Francisco, he painted significant canvases with episodes from the Life of St. Peter Nolasco. His paintings of the Crucifixion of Christ and other historical figures marked a change in his artistic career.
Alban’s impact on Ecuadorian art history is notorious. His works represented a significant change in the Quito School, which until then focused on religious themes.
Albán broke this pattern by embracing scientific themes, as evidenced by the six paintings painted for the Royal Botanical Expedition. These paintings, now exhibited in the Museum of America, offer a glimpse of the flora and social diversity of the time.
His ability to represent social classes and dress of the time was crucial in the context of the expedition. The paintings of Vicente Albán served as a tool for José Celestino Mutis, leader of the expedition, in his classification of flora. Albán’s work transcends art by becoming a window into the history and society of the time.
In addition, Albán was an outstanding portraitist, as evidenced by his portrait of the Bishop of Quito, Blas Sobrino y Minayo. His artistic legacy, from his historical canvases to his portraits, remains a testament to the power of art to capture the essence of an ever-changing era.
Vicente Albán stands out as an iconic figure in the history of Spanish-American colonial art, representing the cultural richness of the Quito School and the change and evolution in the way of representing nature and society.

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