This article examines the migration of artistic theory from Europe to Spanish America in the early modern period and, more specifically, the way in which these ideas served to fashion the role of artists in colonial society. In the seventeenth century, Counter-Reformation ideas about the devout painter entered hagiographies written in Lima, Quito, and Santa Fe, which praised the artistic skill of religious artists as visible manifestation of their piety. As exemplars of Christian virtue, these artists stood as the spiritual capital of Spanish American cities and thus were instrumental in the shaping of local pride and identities. Tridentine artistic theory acquired a new meaning in colonial Spanish America, in the sense that it legitimized a view of Spanish American urban communities as Christian corporations. The figure of the Christian painter was particularly important in Jesuit narratives written in Spanish America, since it grounded the order’s ideas regarding the moral end of pictures and of artists.