- By Jennifer Harry
- BBC news
Historic paintings found in a repository in a city museum have been confirmed by an art historian as important original works.
The five casta paintings were discovered in the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery.
They have been recognized as an original set from the early 18th century by art expert Ilona Katzew.
Now the city council is planning a major exhibition of the works in September.
Casta paintings originated in the Spanish American Viceroyalty of Mexico in the 18th century.
They depict interracial mixing resulting from widespread intermarriage between Spanish settlers, enslaved and indigenous populations.
Ms Katzew said: “This is an exceptional discovery of some of the most complex paintings of the castas pictorial genre that have previously been ignored.
“While most works depict ‘racial’ types, here it was clearly the artist’s intention to individualize the figures.”
Ms. Katzew, the curator and department head of Latin American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, attributed the works to Juan Rodríguez Juárez or his circle, an important artist of the time.
The paintings have been researched and researched by Tara Munroe, creative director of arts organization Opal 22 in Leicester.
She said: “Thirteen years ago, when these paintings were in the basement of the Leicester Museum, I was a trainee curator, at the start of my museum career.
“When I look at these paintings, I see so much more than just the beauty of them.
“I see the beginnings of the myth of racial identity and a way to unpack the elements of social and racial stereotyping in the current climate.”
Opal 22 has teamed up with Leicester City Council to organize a major exhibition of the casta paintings with others from around the world.
The exhibition, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council, will take place at the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery in September.
The museum service of the municipality also has the paintings cleaned and preserved, ready for public viewing.
The Deputy Mayor for Culture, Leisure and Sport, Piara Singh Clair, said: “I am very grateful for the hard work that has gone into researching and identifying these fascinating paintings and the stories behind them.
“Seeing the casta paintings in the context in which they were created is key to understanding their cultural importance, and bringing them to a wider audience gives us the opportunity to re-appreciate and reflect on them about what they mean to today’s audiences.”