Colonial Chinoiserie Escritorio
Mexico. Circa 1700
Following the establishment of the Manila / Acapulco spice routes in the 16th century, Portuguese slave traders captured tens of thousands of Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Malays who would be sold into servitude before making the long and arduous transoceanic journey to New Spain. Traveling on Spanish galleons, some were brought to Nueva España via Acapulco or Veracruz while others were ferried to Lima, Havana, Panama and Rio where they helped satisfy the growing labor demands of wealthy plantation, estancia and hacienda owners. In Nueva España these Asian communities were known as 'Los Indios Chinos' or simply, 'Chinos'.
The cultural effects of the “Oriente en Nueva España" could be heard in foreign accents, observed in local fashion trends and tasted in exotic spices but the artistic impact was far more profound. Spanish galleons leaving Asian ports were filled to the deck with goods bound for New World markets but the demand Asian wares was always greater than supply. Transoceanic journeys were costly and increasing the number of ships or the frequency of voyages was not a viable option. The synthesis of Chinese motifs and colonial craftsmanship would become the defining characteristic of the Chinoiserie movement that would follow.. Drawing on ancient Chinese motifs colonial craftsman fabricated Textiles woven from hand spun Asian silk, talavera pottery mimicking Chinese porcelains and furniture inspired by Ming Dynasty motifs, would become the trademarks of the New World Chinoiserie aesthetic.
Inimitable New World craftsmanship coupled with the archetypal finish details described previously are characterized in this extremely rare early early 18th century colonial period Chinoiserie escritorio from Mexico. Parcel gilt temples, pagodas, birds and bonsai trees framed by hand painted borders are superimposed over a soft palette of gently shifting amaranth and vermillion reds polychromy. The upper section is equipped with multiple drawers, a hinged door and interior cubbies concealed behind a slanted drop front with working lock and key. The lower section features a curvilinear drawer fitted with numerous cubbies and dividers for documents, writing instruments and other supplies.
* From an important long standing private California collection.
Dimensions: 19 inches wide x 14 inches deep x 12 inches high.
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