Echoes of 19th century Lima

Costumbrismo through the album Praetoria

By National Library of Peru

The National Library of Peru preserves a rich visual documentary heritage of the 19th century. Of this material, the albums of customary engravings and watercolors stand out, images of the different types of inhabitants and their occupations in a post-independence Lima.

View of Lima from the vicinity of the bullring (Around the end of the 18th century) by Fernando BambrilaNational Library of Peru

Where do costumbrista images come from?

It is a visual genre developed in the 19th century, heir to an international industry with various supports such as illustrations, paintings and engravings for different functions such as the registration of scientific trips, edit publications or illustrating cabinets.

Costumes of Lima. Sixteen years in Chile and Peru (Between 1822 and 1841) by Fisher, Son and Co. Printing HouseNational Library of Peru

Throughout 1800, this industry specialized in the collection, creation and reproduction of imaginaries about the national identities of various countries and continents, first responding to the demand of travelers and later to local needs.

Old book cover of Praetoria album, Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed) and Ignacio Merino, Second half of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Praetoria album book cover, Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed) and Ignacio Merino, 2021, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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The 1871 Praetoria album was named for the written word and figure on its old cover. It contains twenty-five watercolor and fourteen illuminated lithographs of types and popular customs of the people of Lima in the 19th century. The themes and compositions of the imagenes were widespread, widely copied and reproduced to satisfy an avid market.

[Butler] (Around the middle of the 19th century) by AnonymousNational Library of Peru

A mysterious item

Due to the international demand that required images to classify the different types of inhabitants and their occupations about this side of the world, the production of costumbrista images was carried out in a sustained manner.

We do not know where the Praetoria album was made but it has descriptions in the German language, leading to speculate that it was compiled for a European collector.

[Water carrier] (Around the middle of the 19th century) by Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed)National Library of Peru

Who were the authors of these images?

The images of types or customs did not usually have a signature. In the case of the Praetoria album, the experts did not reach a consensus: some of the watercolors -or all- could be by the renowned watercolorist Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (Lima, 1807-1879).

[Lady at mass] (Around the middle of the 19th century) by Ignacio MerinoNational Library of Peru

Meanwhile, two lithographs have the signature of the famous painter Ignacio Merino (Piura, 1817 - Paris, 1876). Although both Peruvian artists elaborated together costumbrista prints, there is no certain conclusion of the authorship of the works of the Praetoria album.

What or who do we find in the Praetoria album?

Among the everyday types that were commonly portrayed in these collections of images, there are merchants with their various and, to foreign eyes, strange services. Throughout the 19th century, the benefits and problems of ambulatory commerce were discussed, and was subject to multiple reforms in favor of the urban and hygienist reorganization of the city.

[Milkmaid], Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed), Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Candle seller], Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed), Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Lottery seller], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Ice cream maker], Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed), Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Chichera of terranova stall], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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We also find traces of customs, meetings and popular events held in the capital and its surroundings, such as cockfights or bullfights. Lima was recognized by many travelers as a lively and bustling city, although little developed. Starting in the second half of the 19th century, successive governments improved the decoration of public space, with the consequent appropriation of these new spaces by the population.

[Lady in swimsuit with Indian companion], Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed), Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Negroes dancing zamacueca], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Cockfight], Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed), Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Parallel to the movement and bustle, a fervent religious life coexisted based on the Catholic faith, an inheritance from the colonial past. The old City of the Kings was surrounded by convents, monasteries and churches, and had a busy calendar of events, including processions and religious staging in streets and squares.

[Merced priest], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Buena Muerte priest], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Franciscan monk], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Barbones priest], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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In addition to showing customs and popular types, the Praetoria album allows us to reflect on the diversity of the citizens of Lima and their role in the first republican society. Although independence obtained the promise of equality, in practice a segmented and racialized society was maintained, strengthening the association between the color of the skin and the social condition of the individual.

[Cholo with chola], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Also, the album contains various female images. Let us remember that women at the beginning of the 19th century did not enjoy equal rights, they were expected to fulfill a subordinate role and in their education service to the home was emphasized.

[Walking chicha vendor], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Even so, many of them performed important functions, albeit silent, participating in the debate or dissemination of separatist ideas, being part of the independence struggle and, later, in the warlord struggles of the young Peruvian republic.

[Soldier and rabona], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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[Tapada and her servant], Anonymous, Around the middle of the 19th century, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Praetoria album, Francisco "Pancho" Fierro (attributed) and Ignacio Merino, 2021, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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