Stone Painted with Hieroglyphs in Saboyá, Province of Vélez


This watercolor by Carmelo Fernández (1809−87) shows painted rock markings made by local Muisca indigenous people, probably in precolonial times, at Saboyá, in the west of present-day Boyacá Department, Colombia. The legend below the picture reads: “It seems that the Indians wanted to commemorate, by the pictographs that appear on the stone, the draining of the great Lake Fúquene, which left dry a large part of it, resulting in the smaller lake that is there now. This stone is oriented toward the point of the lake from which the waters issued forming the Suáres River.”  Fernández was born in San José de Guama, Venezuela, into a well-connected family (he was the nephew of José Antonio Páez, a hero of Venezuelan independence and three times president). He studied art in New York when still a youth. He returned home in 1827 and served in the military, where he mastered topographical drawing. Political turmoil in Venezuela prompted him to move to New Granada (present-day Colombia and Panama) in 1849. There he became the first draftsman for the Comisión Corográfica (Chorographic Commission), which was co-founded and directed by Agustín Codazzi (1793–1859), an Italian-born geographer and engineer. The commission, which began work in 1850, studied the geography, cartography, natural resources, natural history, regional culture, and agriculture of New Granada. In 1850–52 Fernández painted about 30 watercolors in the provinces northeast of Bogotá: Tunja, Pamplona, Ocaña, Socorro, Vélez, and Santander. These works, which are now in the National Library of Colombia, portray the diverse ethnic, racial, and social groups and the varied physical landscape of New Granada. Fernández was succeeded on the commission by Henry Price (1819−1863) and later Manuel María Paz (1820−1902). He returned to Caracas aged 43, where he lived most of the rest of his life. In 1873 he produced his most famous work, a portrait of Símon Bolívar that appears on Venezuelan coins.

Last updated: November 29, 2016