X. From Spaniard and Return Backwards, Hold Yourself Suspended in Mid Air (X. De español y torna atrás, tente en el aire)

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X. From Spaniard and Return Backwards, Hold Yourself Suspended in Mid Air (X. De español y torna atrás, tente en el aire)

circa 1760
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Framed: 41 5/16 x 49 5/8 x 1 1/2 in. (104.9 x 125.98 x 3.81 cm); Unframed: 39 1/2 x 47 1/2 in. (100.3 3 x 120.65 cm)
Gift of the 2011 Collectors Committee (M.2011.20.3)
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

These three works belong to a set of casta paintings by Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz that originally had sixteen scenes (over time many sets have been disassembled)....
These three works belong to a set of casta paintings by Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz that originally had sixteen scenes (over time many sets have been disassembled). Each scene depicts a family group with parents of different races and one of their children. During the colonial period Indians, Spaniards born in Spain as well as the New World (the latter known as Creoles), and Africans brought over as slaves all populated Mexico. The result was that a large percentage of the population became mixed, known collectively as castas (or "castes" in English)-from where the pictorial genre derives its name. Casta paintings were largely produced for a European audience to classify and create order of an increasingly mixed society. This is especially important because in Europe there existed the widespread idea that all the inhabitants of the Americas (regardless of race) were degraded hybrids, which called into question the purity of blood of Spaniards and their ability to rule the colony's subjects. Casta painting responds to this anxiety by constructing a view of an orderly society bound by love (hence the use of the familial metaphor), but one that was hierarchically arranged and that featured Spaniards at the top. Morlete Ruiz situates the mixed couples in elaborate landscape settings and pays careful attention to the figures' clothing and attributes. For example, some Spanish men hold a sword-a privilege that in colonial legislation was only reserved to this group-while some women sport a manga, a cape that resembles an inverted skirt fit from the head, worn exclusively by women of African descent (it was adapted from a similar garment worn by Moorish women in Spain). In addition to presenting a typology of human races, occupations, and dress, casta paintings picture the New World as a land of boundless natural wonder through precise renderings of native products, flora, and fauna. Morlete Ruiz's works include an assortment of local fruits such as avocados and prickly pears (tunas). Products like these underscored the colonists' pride in the diversity and prosperity of the colony, and at the same time they fulfilled Europe's curiosity about the "exoticism" of the New World. In addition, they reflect the popularity of classificatory theories introduced by the Enlightenment and the interest in natural history. Ilona Katzew, 2011
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