Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    Túpac Amaru y Pizarro / Carlota Carvallo De Núnez
    Expreso (Lima, Perú). -- Ago. 10, 1972
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Carvallo de Núñez, Carlota. "Túpac Amaru y Pizarro." Expreso (Lima, Perú), August 10, 1972.

In this letter, painter Cota Carvallo responds to position taken by painter Fernando de Szyszlo on the portrait of the conqueror of Peru. Carvallo defends the task of “discovering authentic national values.” She bemoans the ongoing presence of a monument to Francisco Pizarro in the Lima main square. “In its place,” she argues, “we should put an image of Manco Cápac or of Atahualpa,” the first and last Incan kings. The author praises the renewal of the iconography at the seat of the executive branch and “the absence of elitist preferences” that have made it possible to select the work by Néstor Quiroz López. Furthermore, she argues that the portrait of Pizarro “for its value as work of art, not as symbol, deserves an important place at the Museo de Arte,” thereby recognizing the merits of visual artist Daniel Hernández, although his “most noteworthy works […] are depictions of beautiful courtesans wrapped in silk lounging on comfortable couches.” 


In this document, Peruvian painter and writer Cota Carvallo (1909–80) responds to the letter from painter Fernando de Szyszlo (1925–2017) published in the magazine Oiga (Lima, August 4, 1972), in which he expresses his artistic—and, he clarifies, not political—reservations about the replacement of the portrait of Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro (1476–1541) with the portrait of the indigenous forefather of independence, Túpac Amaru II, in the main hall of the Palacio de Gobierno. This text by Carvallo can be read as expressing the governmental position, since the newspaper Expreso, in which it was published, had been appropriated by the military regime in 1970, and it fervently upheld the position of that regime.

The first period of the so-called Gobierno Revolucionario de las Fuerzas Armadas (1968–75) was characterized by social reform and by an interest in symbolic representation. Its emblem was the figure of Túpac Amaru II (José Gabriel Condorcanqui, 1738–81), a curaca or chief of Incan descent who, in 1780, led the most important Andean uprising against the Spanish empire, an event largely ignored in traditional Spanish-American historiography. Between 1970 and 1971, an art competition was held in order to obtain an official image of the indigenous hero, but was ultimately declared null and void.

The symbolic act of replacing the image of the Spanish conqueror with the image of the indigenous forefather of independence was less controversial than the fact that the work chosen was by Néstor Quiroz López, a humble policeman with a taste for painting. The work replaced a portrait by Daniel Hernández (1856–1932), a recognized academic painter who had even served as the director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes from the time of its founding in 1919 through 1932. This indifference to “the specifically artistic” was met with protest from painter de Szyszlo, whose statements were what motivated this response, and from writer Néstor Espinoza (b. 1938), among others [on that subject, see in the ICAA digital archive by Espinoza “Machu Picchu y Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 1139229)]. In 1974, the painting by Quiroz López was replaced by another image of the same hero created by Mario Salazar Eyzaguirre, an army captain who would later become major general. In 2003, that second version was replaced by a work by artist Armando Villegas (1926–2013).

This controversy can be seen as a precedent to the one that ensued in 2004 in response to the removal of the monument to Pizarro by North American sculptor Charles Cary Rumsey (1879–1922) placed in the Plaza Mayor in Lima in 1935. The intensity of both debates illustrates the ongoing importance to Peruvians of the trauma of conquest and its subsequent political uses.

[For further reading on Túpac Amaru II, see the following articles in the archive: by General EP Felipe de la Barra “¿Cómo fue Túpac Amaru?” (doc. no. 865441); (unsigned) “Convocan a concurso: monumento a Túpac Amaru se levantará en el Cuzco” (doc. no. 1053438); by Alfredo Arrisueño Cornejo “Convocan a concurso de pintura para perpetuar la imagen plástica del mártir José Gabriel Condorcanqui” (doc. no. 865422), and “Declaran desierto el Concurso de Pintura ‘Túpac Amaru II’” (doc. no. 865498); (unsigned) “En busca de la imagen arquetípica de Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 865702); by Daniel Valcárcel “El retrato de Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 1052165); and by A. O. Z. “Túpac Amaru: ¿verdadero retrato?” (doc. no. 865460)].

Daniel Contreras Medina
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Courtesy of the archives of Estuardo Nuñez Hague, Lima, Peru.