Melchor Pérez Holguín takes on an assistant in Potosí, 1678
|In urban centers such as Lima, Mexico City, Puebla and Potosí, apprenticeship was a key first step for those who sought to become master painters and members of guilds. As this document makes clear, apprenticeships were sometimes governed by contracts between the family of the apprentice and the master painter. No doubt the formality of this particular contract was due to the growing renown of the painter: Melchor Pérez Holguín was man whose work was sought after by Potosí's wealthy patrons. While some apprentices rose to the same level of fame as their masters, little is known of the career of José Gutierrez. See a painting by Holguín in the Vistas Gallery.|
|Melchor Pérez Holguín (ca. 1660–1724) was one of the most celebrated painters of his day. Born in Cochabamba, early on he was drawn to Potosí, the silver–rich city in the mountains of (today, Bolivia). Holguin's hallmark paintings of hollow–eyed ascetic saints are found in Potosí's many convents and monasteries. He also painted scenes of political events, and his "Entry of Viceroy Archbishop Morcillo into Potosí" can be seen in the Vistas gallery.
This document, one of the first known records of Melchor Pérez Holguín's career in Potosí, reveals the economic substructure of large and productive studios. Holguín would take in assistants for pay, like José Gutiérrez, and they would help him with his work. In return, at the end of their assistantship, these young men would command the skills they needed to begin ascending the guild ladder, at whose top sat the "maestro pintor."