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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston acquires "Desk and Bookcase" from the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection
Desk and bookcase. Mid 18 century. Mexico. Inlaid woods and incised and painted bone, maque, gold and polychrome paint, metalhardware. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has acquired a rare and important "Desk and bookcase" (mid-18th century, Mexico) from the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection. Originally made in Puebla de los Ángeles, this work is a remarkable piece of furniture that displays influences from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.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 (on view through February 15).

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