This is one of sixteen paintings showing the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi in 17th-century Cuzco. In it, members of the parish of San Cristóbal march alongside a large cart—akin to a modern-day float. The feast of Corpus Christi was the most important festival in Cuzco’s church calendar. During the celebration, representatives of the different parishes of Cuzco, the religious confraternities, the religious orders, and the civil government marched through town along a processional route towards the cathedral.
The standard bearer at the far left is the cacique of San Cristóbal parish, don Carlos Huayna Capac Inka. He wears a festival costume: a colonial interpretation of ancient Inka clothing—a banded headdress and tunic embroidered with tocapu over full sleeves bordered with lace. Members of the Cuzco elite watch the procession from the windows of the houses along the processional route. The cart, although lifelike in its appearance, is an imagined vehicle, not one actually used in the procession. Its presence complicates the painting, turning it from a visual account of what actually happened during Corpus Christi into an appeal to viewers’ imaginations about what could possibly appear.
Dean, Carolyn. 1999. Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Mesa, José de and Teresa Gisbert. 1982. Historia de la pintura cuzqueña. Lima: Fundación A.N. Wiese, Banco Wiese.