Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



The Ancient American Empires and the Conquest by Spain and Portugal



The regionally splintered late Mayan cultures, as well as the Aztec and Inca peoples, built up— even as late as the 15th century—large and effectively administered empires in Central and South America. Their rapid collapse in the face of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century may be connected to the conquistadors' ability to exploit the enormous concentration of religious power in the hands of the native rulers. Under Spanish and Portuguese rule, it was primarily the missionaries who converted the Indians, though some of these clergymen also fought for the Indians' rights. Africans were also brought as slaves to the New World and exploited. Under the direction of the Jesuits, semi-autonomous Indian reservations were set up.


The Rise of the Inca Empire

From their capital Cuzco, in present-day Peru, the Inca built the greatest empire in South America in the 15th century and ran a centralized government that organized almost all areas of life.


Following the collapse of the Tiahuanaco culture in the central Andes (part of present-day Peru and Bolivia) around 1100, local coastal cultures arose and formed numerous small states. The Inca, who inhabited the Cuzco Valley, gradually gained dominance under the ruler Manco Capac, who according to Inca tradition had migrated from Lake Titicaca a-round 1200. "Inca" appears to have originally been the name of the ruling family, then of the ruler, and finally the name of the whole people. The ninth Inca ruler, Pachacutec Yupanqui, who came to power around 1438, embarked on a series of military conquests that provided the foundations for the government of the Inca Empire.

The capital Cuzco grew rapidly, and other cities such as 2 Machu Picchu were founded with 4 monumental cult edifices.

2 The ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru

4 Carved rock sundial for cult ceremonies, Machu Picchu, Peru

Pachacutec's son, 3 Òîðà Yupanqui, conquered the Bolivian highlands and pushed into present-day northwest Argentina, subduing the coastal areas of the Chimu Empire and expanding Inca territory southwards.

3 Òîðà Yupanqui on his throne with his wife at his side,
artist's reconstruction from written descriptions, 1870

He sent raft expeditions out into the Pacific Ocean, which probably got as far as the Galapagos Islands.

At the beginning of the 16th century, under Huayna Capac, the empire was further enlarged to include much of present-day Colombia and reached its political and 1 cultural zenith.

1 Headdress made of plaited lama hair
decorated with feathers, 15th-16th c.

The "Empire of Four Parts" was the mightiest realm in ancient America, ruling the surrounding peoples.

The Inca state had a tightly centralized administration and a carefully planned economic structure.

At its head was the 6 ruler, the Sapay Inca ("highest Inca"), revered as the son of the 5 sun.

6 Inca ruler, wood engraving, 16th ñ

5 Inca sacrifice to the sun god, colored copper engraving, 17th century

In the empire's strict hierarchy, the Inca people constituted the nobility, while the subjugated peoples were used as laborers. All subjects were combined into administrative units and were required to accomplish specific labor and military services for the good of the state.

Everything was recorded by means of knotted strings called 7 quipu.

An excellent network of paths through the mountains permitted the rapid transport of troops, news, and some produce between cities. Like the Maya, the Inca did not have knowledge of metallurgy or the wheel. A common language of the empire, Quechua, was used to simplify administration. For every 10,000 inhabitants of the Inca Empire, there were 1330 state officials, selected according to their abilities and trained for specific responsibilities and positions.

7 Inca quipu, 1430-1532  

Inca tunic



The Structure of the Inca Empire and the Spanish Conquest

Agrarian collectivism was overseen by the Inca Empire's administration, but the passivity of the masses and a fratricidal -war facilitated the civilization's rapid conquest by the Spanish.


In Inca society the land belonged to the village community, which allocated certain areas of arable land to individual families, according to their size. Each family could live from the yield, but the community was also required to pay taxes for the support of the ruler, the priests, and communal buildings. Individuals also had to cultivate the community's fields to support the elderly, the ill, and those otherwise unfit for work. Woods and pastures were common land for the use of every member of the community, but the home and farm were family property. Harvest surpluses were delivered to central silos where they were stored for times of famine.

Agricultural productivity was raised through 8 terracing and irrigation systems and the use of fertilizer, primarily guano.

The breeding of animals, notably the llama, and fishing along the coast, also played a significant part in the Inca economy. The manner in which the absolute authority of the ruler and his state rested on divine ritual and went unquestioned may have made the structure more fragile, assisting the Spanish conquest.
In 1527, Huayna Capac died without designating a successor. Both his eldest son Huascar, in Cuzco, and his favorite son Atahualpa, in Quito, laid claim to the throne, resulting in a fraticidal war that seriously weakened the empire. The Spanish under Francisco Pizarro used this division to their advantage to conquer the Inca Empire.

At first they sided with 9 Atahualpa, who was victorious when Huascar was captured and murdered by his troops in 1532.

8 Irrigation of the Inca terraced fields,
wood engraving, ca. 1560

9 Atahualpa, son of Huayna Capac

But then Pizarro had Atahualpa 10 imprisoned in 1533 and strangled, leaving the state without a Sapay Inca and thus paralyzed.

The Inca Empire was largely conquered by 1539.

Resistance to the Spanish continued after 1535 in the border provinces of Vilcabamba under the leadership of a member of the former ruling family, Manco Capac II, whom the Spanish themselves had installed in 1533. He was murdered in 1544, but the Vilcabamba region was still able to resist the Spanish until 1572. A last revolt of the Inca, which attempted to restore the old religion, failed in 1565.

Despite repression and conversion, 11 Inca culture survived and influenced the European colonists who came and settled in the former empire.

10 Atahualpa is seized by Pizarro's soldiers, 1532

11 Drinking vessel in a mixed Incan-Spanish style, ca. 1650



The Revolt against the Spanish in 1780-81

Attempts by Spanish government officials (corregidores) to force the indigenous peoples to adopt 18th-century Spanish lifestyles resulted in a revolt in Peru in 1780- 1781 which was led by a descendent of a noble Inca family, Tupac Amaru.

The revolt was violently crushed, but the corregidores concerned were replaced by new officials who then allowed the indigenous people greater independence.




Spanish and Portuguese Domination of the Americas

The Spanish and the Portuguese colonized the "New World" after 1500. Black slaves were brought from Africa to work on the plantations and farms of the colonizers.


Soon after their arrival in the Americas, the Spanish and Portuguese began to lay claim to the land. In 1498 1 Christopher Columbus reached the mainland for the first time (in present-day Venuezuela) and the following year, Amerigo Vespucci landed on the coast of Colombia.

1 Columbus lands in the Americas, 1498

The Europeans proceeded to explore and conquer much of the continent: the area of Mexico by 3 Hernan Cortes in 1519-1521, Peru by 2 Francisco Pizarro in 1531-1534, Chile in 1535, Paraguay in 1536. and Bolivia in 1538.

In 1535, the Spanish king, Charles V, appointed 5 Antonio de Mendoza viceroy of "New Spain," which encompassed present-day Mexico and most of Central America.

3 Hernan Cortes, painting,
16th century

2 Francisco Pizarro

5 Antonio de Mendoza, painting, 1786

In 1543 the viceroyalty of Peru was formed, comprising all of Spanish South America and Panama. The conquests were retrospectively given the legal title of "missionary work," although this concept long remained controversial among theologians.

The 6 Portuguese, led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral, arrived in Brazil in 1500 and established trading posts there.

6 Battle between the Indians and Portuguese, ca. 1550,
colored copper engraving

The Portuguese crown first claimed the country as its property in 1534. From 1549 Brazil was administered by a royal governor-general. Madrid attempted to control events in the Spanish territories and imposed restrictions on European settlers. The crown considered the trade and resources of the colonies as a source of income for the mother country.

7 Monastic missionaries converted the Indians to Christianity—sometimes forcibly—but al- so protected them from the 8 arbitrary actions of the conquerors.

In 1542 they were able to enforce a legal ban on Indian slavery, and in the same year (he Dominican father, Bartolome de Las Casas, the "apostle of the Indians," drew up his Leyes Nuevas ("new laws"). These established the equality of the Indians and their liberation from forced labor.

However the Church was silent on black slavery, and 9 Africans were soon transported to work on the plantations of South America and the Caribbean islands.

By the time slavery was abolished in 1850, between four million and ten million Africans had been transported to Brazil alone.

Initially whole tribes of Indians were eradicated by infections carried by the Europeans, but over time the South American- born Europeans (creoles), Indians (mestizos), and black Africans (mulattos) born in the New World mixed. The Europeans, however, continued to form the ruling class.

7 A Franciscan monk preaches
to the Indians

8 Spanish oppression of the native Indians,
colored copper engraving. 1596

9 African slaves at a market in Brazil, ca. 1768



The Indian Reservations

Under the direction of the Jesuits, autonomous Indian reservations were established during the 17th century. In the 18th century, the Creoles became increasingly politically conscious and sought independence from the motherland.


Under Las Casas, bishop of Chiapas from 1544, the 10 Dominicans and later the Jesuits began the 11 conversion of the Indians.

They started in the jungles of Guatemala and founded mission reservations in which the tribal chiefs remained in office with the recognition of the king of Spain. Similar reservations were later set up in Mexico. Protective regulations for the Indians, such as payment for services rendered and prescribed work and rest periods, were often not respected by the local authorities. In 1601 a royal decree gave the rules the force of law—yet they were still routinely disregarded.

In 1604, the Jesuits succeeded in having the province of Paraguay transferred to their control, and in 1609 founded a reduccion (reservation) for the Guarani as a semi-autonomous Indian settlement. The Indians lived in supervised settlements and cultivated communal lands for two or three days of the week, the yield of which was used to pay Spanish taxes and church construction. The remaining days of the week the Indians worked their own land for their family. All children received an education a part of which was training in a skilled trade.

10 Dominican monks baptize Indians, ca. 1600

11 A Christian sermon in a pictorial script which was
developed by the Jesuit missionaries to assist them
in converting the Indians of Paraguay,
extract written on parchment, 17th century

The Jesuits kept their own 12 militia to guard against the raids of slave traders from neighboring Brazil. Similar reservations were set up in Ecuador, northern Bolivia, and northwest Mexico, but they deteriorated after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Paraguay between 1759-1767.

The enlightened government of Charles III of Spain carried out reforms in the second half of the 18th century. These included measures to improve the legal status of Indians and the legal equality of the Creoles and immigrant Spaniards in the appointment to offices. However ownership of the best land and access to
office remained the preserve of the Creole elite. This class slowly became acquainted with the concepts of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Spanish America saw the Napoleonic occupation and the de facto deposition of the royal house in Spain in 1808 as an opportunity to assume home rule. The hour of the struggle for liberation under Simon Bolivar had come.

12 Indians obstruct a Spanish officer from entering their reservation, wood inlay, 17th century



The Pizarro Brothers

The Pizarro brothers are prime examples of the conquistador spirit. Francisco had himself declared governor of Peru in 1529 and founded Lima in 1535. In 1537-1538, trapped with his brothers in Cuzco, he had a disagreement with the Spanish general, Diego de Almagro, who had hurried to save him.

Francisco had Almagro executed in 1538 but was then himself murdered by Almagro's son in 1541. Francisco's brother Gonzalo rebelled against the Spanish viceroy in 1546; he was imprisoned and executed. Their youngest brother, Hernando, went to Spain in 7539 to explain Almagro's execution and was imprisoned until 1560.

The arrest of Gonzalo P'zaro




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