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

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New Acquisition: Three Casta Paintings by Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz

Casta (“caste”) painting is one of the most compelling forms of artistic expression from colonial Mexico. These three works belong to a set of castas by Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz that originally had sixteen scenes (over time many sets have been disassembled), and it is one of the finest of the genre…

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

Mexico, circa 1760
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Unframed: 39 1/2 × 47 1/2 in. (100.3 × 120.7 cm) Framed: 41 5/16 × 49 5/8 × 1 1/2 in. (104.9 × 125.98 × 3.81 cm)
Gift of the 2011 Collectors Committee (M.2011.20.3)
Currently on public view:
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1 MAP IT
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1

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

Provenance

Charles Samuel Hainworth (1873–1957), United Kingdom, early 20th century; by inheritance to his son Henry Charles Hainworth (1914–2005), Geneva, 1957; Derek Johns Ltd., London, 2010; LACMA, 2011.

Label

Eighteenth-century Mexico saw the invention of a unique pictorial genre known as castas (caste paintings).

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Eighteenth-century Mexico saw the invention of a unique pictorial genre known as castas (caste paintings). Created as sets of multiple images, the works document the process of mestizaje (racial mixing) among Amerindians, Spaniards, and Africans. The story the paintings tell, reinforced by the inscriptions, is that the mixture of Spaniards and Indians gave back “pure” or white Spaniards, while the union of Spaniards and Indians with Africans led to racial degeneration. Paradoxically, the inclusion of local products presented the New World as a place of boundless natural wonder and emphasized the colonists’ pride in the diversity and prosperity of the land—a friction that permeates the genre.

The figures’ dress and occupations reinforce their social standing. For example, some Spanish men hold a sword—a privilege that in colonial legislation was only reserved for this group Two works portray women of African descent wearing a distinctive overblouse fastened with gold or silver brooches and colorful ribbons. Sumptuary laws banned Black women and their children from wearing Spanish-style clothing. The fashion they developed in response, which recalls the tunics worn by Moorish women in southern Spain, was often singled out by travelers as highly ostentatious.

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Bibliography

  • Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici, edited by Ilona Katzew. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex; New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2017.
  • Painted in Mexico, 1700–1790: Pinxit Mexici, edited by Ilona Katzew. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex; New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2017.
  • Katzew, Ilona, ed. Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500–1800: Highlights from LACMA’s Collection. Exh. Cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York: DelMonico Books/D.A.P., 2022.
  • Katzew, Ilona. “De español y torna atrás, tente en el aire by Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz” Chiricú Journal (Indiana University Press) 3, no. 2 (2019).
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Exhibition history

  • Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500–1800 Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 12, 2022 - October 30, 2022