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Sunday, May 15 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Wooden Artifacts) Colonial Spanish American lacquered objects at the Hispanic Society of America

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The Hispanic Society of America has a small but very fine collection of colonial Spanish American lacquered objects, decorated with two principal lacquer techniques, barniz de Pasto and Mexican lacquer or maque. Made using indigenous techniques for a European aesthetic which mimicked Asian lacquer, this group of exquisite objects demonstrate the extraordinary craftsmanship of these largely anonymous artisans whose techniques are still in use today in Colombia and Mexico. The colonial objects range in shape from indigenous forms such as gourds and bateas, large wooden bowls, to more traditionally European shapes and decorative domestic objects such as caskets, chests and small boxes, and even larger pieces of furniture such as wardrobes, secretaries, tables and folding screens. Colonial Spanish American lacquers are often misidentified as painted or japanned, or even as the Asian lacquers they sought to imitate. There have been few studies on these objects and only now conservation scientists have begun to conduct materials analysis to identify and establish the properties of these lacquers that originally were used to waterproof gourds, wooden objects and leather. MFA Boston’s conservation scientists have been analyzing samples from HSA’s lacquer objects and initial results confirm the contemporary records that describe the manufacture of these objects as well as reveal some surprises. This paper will focus on the Hispanic Society’s collection and will collate the information known so far about these two techniques: describing the process whereby these objects were made and decorated, using the intricacies of the techniques and stylistic parallels to arrive at a tentative theory about timelines and workshops.

avatar for Monica Katz

Monica Katz

Conservator, Hispanic Society Museum & Library
MONICA KATZ has been the conservator at the Hispanic Society of America since 2001. She is responsible for the treatments of ceramics, wooden objects (including furniture and South American lacquered objects), ivories, as well as surface treatments on metals, stone, and textiles... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 4:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
Room 514