Visions of Heaven and Hell

The year was 1973 and art historian Pablo Macera had heard from an artisan, Hilario Mendívil, about the existence of extraordinary mural paintings within a suite of churches south of the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco. Following up on the tip, he embarked on a journey to see them first hand. So impressed was Macera by what he saw that on his return to Lima he implored his friend, book publisher Carlos Milla Batres, to join him on another visit to explore the possibility of publishing a book on these fantastic but little known works of Andean colonial art. Of his visit to the first of the churches, in the town of Andahuaylillas, Milla would later write in the prologue to La pintura mural andina siglos XVI-XIX (Andean Mural Painting from the Sixteenth through the Nineteenth Centuries), “I could not shake off the sense of awe that took hold of me while contemplating these astounding works of art…. We hadn’t even gone through half of the church, yet we were spellbound. My friend Macera said to me with that inimitable smile of his: What do you think of all this? I didn’t really know how to answer. I said, Pablo, I swear to you on my honor that I will create a great book about these extraordinary murals. He responded. But, you have yet to see Huaro….” Of his visit there, Milla wrote, “I was gripped with emotion, unable to find words to express my great sense of wonder.”

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