On March 26 Winterthur will welcome visitors to Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, an exhibition curated by Dennis Carr, Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This exhibition examines the global reach of Asian goods, a trend that began in the sixteenth century, and demonstrates a global cultural exchange that began much earlier than many of us imagine. Not only were goods transported around the world and resources shared across continents and oceans, but artistic traditions in colonial North, Central, and South America were clearly influenced by goods from other cultures.
Highlighted in the exhibition is this desk-and-bookcase that tells its unique story resulting from this many-layered early global cultural exchange. Made in Mexico, it combines stylistic influences from many countries. The wood-and-bone Mudéjar designs of the geometric inlay on the façade, a style that was popular in viceregal Mexico, is reminiscent of Islamic architecture brought to Spain by the Moors. The Germanic vine-and-berry inlay on the sides, as well as the Dutch-style ripple molding, most likely found their inspiration from the Spanish empire at its height under the Habsburgs, during which time Spain controlled the Low Countries and parts of Central Europe. The painted interior of the object includes chinoiserie elements but depicts a map in an indigenous Mexican folk style, which includes elements of pre-Hispanic mapping traditions. Depicted here is a hacienda in Veracruz, once owned by a wealthy Spaniard, and one of the earliest free African settlements in Mexico. The figures depicted on the map may be descendants of these African slaves or free blacks.
Another object made in Mexico that is featured in Made in the Americas is Miracle of the Wedding at Cana by Nicholás Correa. This painting is an example of the enconchado (concha means “shell” in Spanish) painting that artists in Mexico created using mother-of-pearl inlay under painted surfaces to create an illusion of light. The use of mother-of-pearl in this way was in the style of Japanese nanban (exportware) lacquer, but the painting sets a portrayal of the New Testament story of the first miracle of Jesus, transforming water into wine, in a luxurious contemporary Mexican interior.
Made in the Americas features many more extraordinary objects that tell their own stories of how global trade influenced design and craftsmanship in colonial North, Central, and South America. Join us between March 26, 2016, and January 8, 2017, to see exquisite objects from Mexico City, Lima, Quito, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that teach us about the rich cultural heritage of the Americas.
To learn more about Asian influences on the art of the colonial Americas, enjoy this podcast from Stuff You Missed in History Class featuring an interview with curator Dennis Carr. (link to: http://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/asia-and-the-new-world-an-interview-with-dennis-carr/)
The exhibition at Winterthur is presented by DuPont, Glenmede, and John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw
With additional support from M & T Bank and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
Post by Kim Collison, Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator, Winterthur Museum