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Leon Trousset
Old Mesilla Plaza
about 1885–86
oil
29 9/16 x 48 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution



To capture the romance of the old Southwest as a place of tidy missions, serape-draped natives and orderly plazas lined with rose and orange trees, Trousset imaginatively mixed and matched history. In fact, the actual Church of San Albino in Mesilla, New Mexico, was a much smaller structure than it appears in the painting and by the mid-1880s when Trousset painted this view, the adobe buildings had long been replaced by brick. The tall apparatus in the patio at the right refers to the circus that came to town in the 1870s. The covered wagon about to pass the stage coach reminds us that Mesilla was a stop on El Camino Real (the Royal Highway), which connected Santa Fe with major cities in Mexico.