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