Published: December 30, 2015
BOSTON, MASS. — The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has acquired a rare and important desk and bookcase, mid-Eighteenth Century, Mexico, from the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection. Originally made in Puebla de los Ángeles, this work displays influences from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The striking geometric exterior looks toward Europe with its wood-and-bone Mudéjar designs — a Hispano-Moresque style popular during the era. Opening the doors reveals a dramatic interior of chinoiserie-style painting in gold on a red background. The inside recalls early colonial mapping traditions of Nahuatl-speaking artists, showing views of an extensive hacienda in Veracruz drawn in an indigenous style.
The estate, once owned by a wealthy Spaniard, was the site of one of the earliest free African settlements in Mexico; the maps may depict descendants of these early African slaves or free blacks. This truly global mix of sources extends to the object’s material: the red background is likely maque (from the Japanese word for lacquer, maki-e), a resin created using local materials in the style of Asian painting.
The work is among the most rare pieces of furniture currently on view in the exhibition, “Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia,” the first major, pan-American exhibition to examine the profound influence of Asia on the arts of the colonial Americas. It is oon view through February 15.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is at 465 Huntington Avenue. For general information, www.mfa.org or 617-267-9300.
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