To celebrate day of the dead, following is a guest post by Morbid Anatomy Museum's Cristina Preda devoted to Mexican artist Manuel Manilla, a contemporary of the much better known José Guadalupe Posada.
Enjoy, and Happy Dia de Los Muertos!
Little is known about 19th century Mexican artist Manuel Manilla. His birth, marriage, and death certificates do not survive. A handful of brief testimonies tell us only that he had a son who was also an engraver. A timeline of his life and work was put forth in 1926 by the French painter and critic Jean Charlot and included only three dates. He was born in 1830, began working with prolific Mexican publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo in 1892, retired that same year, and died of typhoid fever in 1895. There is no documentation to corroborate Charlot’s information, though illustrated publications from that time seem to support it.
José Guadalupe Posada remains a singular, dominating figure in Mexican printmaking and engraving of the 19th century. A contemporary of Posada, Manilla specialized in religious and popular subjects featured in the numerous broadsides of the time. It is Posada, however, through a combination of incisive political commentary, a departure from established traditions, and sheer volume of work, who is remembered as Mexico’s most influential printmaker. Still, as Charlot points out, it is worthwhile to know who exactly established this tradition. Even the calavera, a symbol of Mexico’s Day of the Dead and Posada’s most recurring theme—one which he popularized as a national icon—is believed to have been created by Manilla.
All images from Manuel Manilla: Grabador Mexicano by Mercurio López Casillas.