This fine batea is attributed to workshop of José Manuel de la Cerda, the most famous lacquer artist of the eighteenth century Mexico. It represents the story of Arachne and Athena made famous in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The tray resembles other works by de la Cerda (Hispanic Society of America, New York, and Museo de América, Madrid), which are characterized by shiny black backgrounds and a profusion of foliage trimmed in gold. The large surface of the tray provides a field similar to that of canvas where the artist was able to deploy a great degree of inventiveness. In addition to the central medallion depicting the mythological story, the tray includes a number of marginal figures, including a bullfighter and scenes of courtship, figures on horseback, and dramatic wispy weeping willow trees. The fluid combination of Asian-inspired motifs, mythological subjects, and rococo fêtes-galantes creates a striking effect and denotes the great originality and inventiveness of this type of object. The large round shape of bateas had no counterpart in European art; they had multiple uses, including storing and displaying finely made rebozos (shawls).
Ilona Katzew, 2010