A Gold-Washing Technique, Province of Barbacoas
This watercolor by Manuel María Paz (1820−1902) shows people panning for gold along a riverbank in what was then Barbacoas Province, in the far southwest of Colombia near the border with Ecuador. Behind them, two men are fishing. In 1853, when the picture was painted, Barbacoas Province stretched from the Pacific lowlands up to the mountains of the Cordillera Occidental. It was the center of an extensive gold- and platinum-mining industry that flourished from the mid-17th century. The watercolor is typical of Paz’s work, which captured the diversity of the population of Colombia and depicted the daily activities and traditional customs of the country’s different ethnic, racial, and social groups. Paz was born in Almaguer in the province of Cauca. He joined the Colombian army at a young age and showed exceptional skills as a cartographer and painter. In 1853 he took over the role of draftsman of the Comisión Corográfica (Chorographic Commission) formerly held by Henry Price (1819–63). The commission, which began work in 1850, was tasked with studying the geography, cartography, natural resources, natural history, regional culture, and agriculture of the Republic of New Granada (present-day Colombia and Panama). Paz worked under Agustín Codazzi (1793–1859), the Italian-born geographer and engineer who co-founded and directed the commission. In 1859, at Codazzi’s death, Paz was among the collaborators who took on the task of reviewing, completing, and publishing the work that the Comisión Corográfica had undertaken since 1850. As a draftsman, Paz executed watercolors and drawings that were very exact and strove to represent the places and people of Colombia in a naturalistic and objective style. These pictures constitute invaluable documentary records for the history and culture of Colombia. They also provided information pertinent to drawing up the maps that were one of the main objectives of the Comisión Corográfica. More than 90 paintings by Paz are preserved at the National Library of Colombia.
Title in Original Language
Modo de labar oro: Provincia de Barbacoas
Type of Item
Watercolor on paper ; 31 x 24 centimeters
Last updated: November 16, 2016