Upon starting the work for the restoration of the convent, prior to its reopening, a great collection of paintings—predominantly featuring religious motifs—was discovered scattered throughout the buildings, providing many a fine example of viceregal painting in Peru. Approximately 400 pieces were touched up or restored to their original appearance. Thanks to the work done by experts, visitors can now view this collection, which is of extraordinary artistic and historical value. The most notable works are displayed in a majestic setting: two immense rooms, with high, vaulted ceilings, laid out in the shape of a cross, where the stucco has been removed, leaving the bare sillar walls exposed. To one side, another, smaller vault completes the architectural complex set aside for the museum.
In the painting gallery, we may observe one of the most significant displays of religious art to be found on the continent, along with a large collection of works from the so-called “Cuzco School” of painting, the highest expression of the fusion between the sentiments and values of two different cultures: the Incas’ and the Spaniards’. The indigenous artists of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries achieved an extraordinary level of artistic and artisanal skill, on display in outstanding works of religious inspiration, famous for the originality of their style, their depth of expression, and the use of gilding in their finishes.
This convent houses pictorial works exemplifying the different artistic styles that emerged during the viceregal period and the early years of the Republic. There are paintings in a Mannerist style that were brought over from Italy in the early days of the colony; canvases exhibiting the obvious influence of the Spanish School, most notably a Saint Michael Archangel rendered in a style very similar to that of Francisco de Zurbarán; and, of course, works from the so-called “Cuzco School” of painting, which emerged in Peru during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.