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Old Mesilla Plaza

ca. 1885-1886 Leon Trousset Born: France 1838 Died: Juarez, Mexico 1917 oil on canvas 29 9/16 x 48 1/2 in. (75.1 x 123.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution 1951.13 Not currently on view


Gallery Label

Leon Trousset's painting of Mesilla, near Las Cruces, New Mexico, takes us far into the past. Spain's King Philip II mandated the appearance of his colonial cities, where priests, tradesmen, and the king's army competed for influence. Priests often intervened between the soldiers and native peoples, and the church at left reflects their spiritual authority. Across the plaza lies a low-roofed building that likely housed the military commanders. A dirt road leading into the distance marks the town’s position on El Camino Real, the King's Highway connecting trade centers from Santa Fe to Mexico and beyond. Trousset painted this village after the territory had been ceded to the United States, but he included Mexico’s tricolored flags flying in the garrison courtyard. Mesilla’s plaza carried the history of two cultures—Spain and Mexico—even as a third power claimed the unassuming adobe settlement as its own.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Architecture - religious - church

Architecture - vehicle - wagon

Cityscape - bird's eye view

Cityscape - New Mexico - Mesilla

Cityscape - town

Figure(s) in exterior

painting

folk art

folk art

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Leon Trousset

Born: France 1838 Died: Juarez, Mexico 1917

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