Lacquered Table Cabinet
The wooden table cabinet opens up to reveal three rows of drawers; the top row with false fronts and two rows of working drawers below. The interior of the fall-front lid is decorated with a spotted animal, two cat-like animals and a pair of birds. The top hinged lid opens up to display a fitted tray with several open compartments. The interior of the hinged lid is decorated with an unusual central figure depicted with a tail and wearing a hat resting among a vivid background with a painted tree, brightly-coloured flowers, foliage, a pair of foxes, birds and cat-like animals. The exterior of the table cabinet is painted in various shades of yellow, brown, green, black, and faint hints of red representing large flowers, curly, leafy foliage amongst spotted animals, foxes, birds, hunting dogs, hares and various other creatures. The top of the lid is depicted with a central double-headed eagle evenly spaced between painted lobes extending from the metal mounts. This table cabinet is a rare example of the luxury goods made in Colombia during the 17th century when Asian and Chinoiserie inspired-wares were in the height of fashion throughout Europe and New Spain. The lacquer technique 'barniz de Pasto' represented on this table cabinet, also known as 'mopa mopa', was used by artisans in Pasto, Colombia. The mopa mopa plant resin was melted, mixed with colours, stretched and applied in thin layers, cut and then heated onto the wood. This inlay technique was developed in the Andean region and extended to Ecuador and areas of Peru. A portable writing desk in The Hispanic Society of America (see D. Carr, Made in Americas, 2015, p. 80, fig. 48), Pasto, Colombia, circa 1684, is of similar form to our table cabinet and depicts some of the same animals with common floral decoration including carnations, leafy vines and agraz berries (p. 81). The portable writing desk in The Hispanic Society of America includes brass fittings to the top of the lid and metal handles to each side. There is another similar Colombian table cabinet in The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Accession Number W.5-2015, circa 1650, which has Latin inscriptions and similar foliage and animal-style decoration.
Dennis Carr, Made in Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2015