Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks

Sustaining A Global Community: Art And Religion In The Network Of Baroque Hispanic-American Paintings

by Fernando Sancho, Javier de la Rosa, Juan Luis Suárez

Abstract

In this paper we analyze the network of Hispanic baroque paintings from 1550 to 1850. We divide the data set of 11,443 works from Spain and Latin America in 25 year periods in order to study the evolution  of the paintings’ 211 descriptors. We show that most of the paintings are linked through genre and theme and that religious Christian themes make up the overwhelming majority of connections among paintings.

The inter-dependence of art and religion in this network begs the question of the evolutionary role of art and symbolic networks in the sustainability of global communities. It also helps to understand how cultural networks —networks in which interpersonal relations are mediated by the interactions with cultural objects and phenomena— serve the purpose of harnessing the humans’ evolved social psychology in order to interact with other humans and groups at great distances.

Henrich et al. (2010) have proven that the existence of norms that sustain fairness in exchanges among strangers are connected with the diffusion of institutions such as market integration and the participation in world religions. Their research confirms the hypothesis that modern world religion may have contributed to the sustainability of large-scale societies. We use the case of the formation of an artistic network of paintings, schools, themes genres, and artists whose development goes along with the expansion and colonization of the Hispanic Monarchy across America to show that this artistic network has a presence in all political territories encompassing most ethnicities and religions of indigenous origin.

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