Lacquered wood, wrought ironexpand_more
The Putnam Dana McMillan Fundexpand_more 2016.38a-d
As museums increasingly display and add to their collections to reflect the complex and fascinating global phenomena that preceded our own time, objects like this bufetillo, or writing box, are key. This beautiful example provides a Colonial American narrative and a backstory that directly relates to the history of Mexican Americans. In this way, it supports the community-facing initiatives that anchor Mia’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. The box demonstrates how indigenous peoples of Michoacán, Mexico, adapted a regional decorative technique to European forms. The Purépecha people had developed a type of inlaid lacquer work applied to decorated gourd vessels in the pre-colonial period. Upon the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the technique was combined with European-style wood furniture forms such as this bufetillo. These boxes and other objects were portable and affordable, while still considered luxurious—perfect for Spanish colonists and even for export to Europe and other parts of the Spanish colonial empire. Most remarkably, the box is decorated on every side and teems with activity, from benign to dangerous, depicted in an animated way through stylization that appears more indigenous than Western.