Monday, March 8, 2010
LACMA's Latin American department has made another impressive acquisition with deaccession funds from the Lewin collection. It's a lacquer tray (batea), attributed to the workshop of José Manuel de la Cerda, greatest lacquer artist of 18th-century Mexico. The tray is circular, nearly a yard across, minutely decorated with a flat-world mash-up of fete galantes, bull fights, Greek mythology, and chinoiserie. (Above, the central medallion shows the myth of Arachne, complete with a gigantic spiderweb.) The "inauthenticity" of the decoration apparently didn't bother Cerda's aristocratic patrons in Mexico and Europe, most of whom had little access to Asian lacquer. European chinoiserie populates its invented landscapes with supposed Asians; Cerda's Orient favors Mexicans decked out in British redcoats. The only comparable piece in the U.S. is at New York's Hispanic Society.