Chest (Caja)

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Chest (Caja)

Peru, Lima, 18th century
Furnishings; Furniture
Wood, tortoiseshell, ivory, inlaid mother-of-pearl
a) Chest: 14 9/16 x 24 3/8 x 14 3/8 in. (36.99 x 61.91 x 36.51 cm); b) Stand: 19 11/16 x 18 x 29 5/16 in. (50.01 x 45.72 x 74.45 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund (M.2009.121a-b)
Currently on public view:
Art of the Americas Building, floor 4 MAP IT
Art of the Americas Building, floor 4

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Curator Notes

This chest represents the sophistication of Spanish colonial decorative arts. This chest is made with tropical woods and is richly ornamented with inlaid mother of pearl, tortoiseshell, and ivory....
This chest represents the sophistication of Spanish colonial decorative arts. This chest is made with tropical woods and is richly ornamented with inlaid mother of pearl, tortoiseshell, and ivory. The chest sits on an equally lavish bufete (small table). The decoration of the piece recalls Islamic, Korean, and Japanese decorative styles. This type of cabinet making was popular in Lima, Peru (as well as Mexico), where there were probably workshops devoted to their creation. Much more research is required, however, to determine the origin of the shells and of the woods, as well as the transmission and adaptation of decorative patterns. Luxury items such as this chest were highly prized in elite households and exemplify the globalization of taste in the early modern period. Goods from Asia were not only valued in Europe but also in the Americas, where they made their way through the famous trading vessels, the Manila Galleons, that traversed the Pacific beginning in the sixteenth century. Spanish colonial craftsmen soon began adapting Asian inspired materials, formats, and techniques to create local furnishings. This was the case of the numerous folding screens (biombos), ceramic ware (talavera), and inlaid-mother-of-pearl paintings (enconchados) created in New Spain. Throughout the colonial period there was a constant influx of Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, and other peoples from across Asia to the colonies, but we know considerably less about their occupations and participation in guilds and/or workshops. Another avenue of research concerns the workshops themselves and whether they were run by local or foreign artists. The acquisition of this object-the first of its kind to enter LACMA's collection-will help deepen our knowledge about this area of Spanish colonial art, and of the connection between Asian and Latin American artistic traditions. Ilona Katzew, 2009
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