Sewing boxes were treasured possessions of colonial women. This example illustrates a romantic courtship. On the lid's interior are courtship scenes and miniature oval portraits of an officer and his betrothed, while the base appears to include a portrait of their daughter. The exterior depicts a fête gallante (front) and a battle scene (back). The tradition of Mexican lacquer predates the arrival of the Spaniards. The primary ingredients of colonial Mexican lacquers were oils extracted from plants and insects. When Asian lacquer was introduced via the famous Manila galleons that traversed the Pacific beginning in the sixteenth century, artists found their creative possibilities broadened. Objects made in Pátzcuaro—bateas (large trays), writing desks, and elegant boxes such as this—were highly prized.
Ilona Katzew, 2008