Tray (batea)

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Tray (batea)

circa 1760
Furnishings; Serviceware
Wood, painted lacquer
Overall (Diameter): 34 1/2 in. (87.63 cm) Height: 4 7/8 in. (12.38 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund (M.2010.6)
Currently on public view:
Art of the Americas Building, floor 4 MAP IT
Art of the Americas Building, floor 4

Since gallery displays may change often, please contact us before you visit to make certain this item is on view.

Curator Notes

The tradition of Mexican lacquer predates the arrival of the Spaniards....
The tradition of Mexican lacquer predates the arrival of the Spaniards. Jícaras (lacquered gourd cups) were made by the Mexica and Purépecha peoples, and their production continued throughout the colonial period. The primary ingredients of colonial Mexican lacquers were oils extracted from plants and insects. When Asian lacquer was introduced in the colonies via the famous Manila galleons that traversed the Pacific, artists found their creative possibilities broadened. Objects made in Peribán (western Michoacán) were hugely admired, as were those of Pátzcuaro (central Michoacán), where bateas or large round trays such as this one were made. The delicate craftsmanship of these works elicited the fervent admiration of Spaniards and travelers, and numerous examples were shipped as gifts to Europe.

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