Spanish American furnishings veneered in tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl designs are known as enconchados. The term derives from the application of small sheets of mother-of-pearl (concha de perla) on wooden surfaces. Because of their materials and decorative schemes, the works have been slippery to categorize. Scholars have suggested that they were imported aboard the famous Manila Galleons that traveled annually to the port of Acapulco in Mexico, from where the objects were distributed throughout Spanish America. Some experts have argued that their profusion in Lima suggests local manufacture, possibly with the involvement of Asian artisans. Archival and material documentation, however, seems to suggests that the works originated in Guatemala City, where mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell were harvested locally and considered a prized commodity. Many works made of these materials were exported to Mexico and Peru. The designs draw on a range of European and Asian sources, which local artists creatively reinterpreted.
From exhibition Archive of the World, 2022 (for more information see the catalogue entry by Ilona Katzew in the accompanying publication, cat. no. 69, pp. 275–83)