Two Works from Latin America (Mexico and Puerto Rico) Acquired by the Brooklyn Museum

1. From the Circle of the González family
(end XVIIth-beginning XVIIIth century)
Screen, recto, The Siege of Belgrade, c. 1697-1701
Tempera on Panel, Inlaid of Mother-of-pearl - 229.9 x 275.8 cm
New York, Brooklyn Museum

9/5/12 - Acquisitions - New York, Brooklyn Museum - The Brooklyn Museum succeeded in acquiring a Mexican screen and a Puerto Rican painting, on 19 April from Salvart Limited in London after deaccessioning a work in its collection. The funds for these acquisitions came from the sale of The Crucifixion by the Romans painted in 1887 by the Russian artist, Vasily Vereshchagin, auctioned at Christie’s London on 28 November 2011 for £1,721,250. The museum justified this decision [1] by explaining that the painting had not been exhibited since 1932 and that there were no plans to hang it in the galleries any time in the near future...
The screen is a rather exceptional piece, commissioned around 1700 by José Sarmiento de Valladares y Aines, Count of Moctezuma y Tula, the last viceroy of New Spain (1696-1701) under the Hapsburg reign ; it pays tribute to the dynasty by representing the siege of Belgrade, a victory over the Turks in 1688 (ill. 1). A multitude of figures blends in with architectural motifs, while in the background the artist opens up the composition with a mountainous landscape. The back shows a hunting scene (ill. 2) inspired by the engravings of Johannes Stradanus, a painter at the Medici court. Both sides are framed by a decorative floral border.
A mixture of Asian, American and European traditions, these panels are a beautiful example of "enconchado", a mixed technique of mother-of-pearl inlays with oil and tempera painting in which Juan and Miguel González excelled. This work was produced by artists in their circle in Mexico.

2. From the Circle of the González family
(end XVIIth-beginning XVIIIth century)
Screen, verso, Hunting Scene, c. 1697-1701
Tempera on Panel, Inlaid of Mother-of-pearl - 229.9 x 275.8 cm
New York, Brooklyn Museum

The word for screen in Spanish is "biombo", a term which seems to come from the Japanese "byöbu" ("wall of wind"). The Japanese creations which inspired the Mexican format for biombos were introduced in America in the early 17th century, notably through the diplomatic gifts presented by foreign ambassadors. Mexican artists adapted the models to the taste of the local elite and in the 1660’s developed inlays of mother-of-pearl and lacquer, combined with Western pictorial techniques. The Museo de América in Madrid for example, holds a series of panels produced by Miguel González in 1698, illustrating a more pertinent episode of local history : the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés.
After the death of Charles II, a Burbon, Philippe V took over the Spanish throne. José Sarmiento returned to Spain in 1701 bringing the screen with him. Originally made up of twelve panels, it was divided in two ; since 1970, the six missing panels reside at the Museo Nacional del Virreinato in Mexico. The Brooklyn screen will be the centerpiece of the exhibition Behind Closed Doors : Power and Privilege in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898 which will take place at the museum from 20 September 2013 to 12 January 2014.

3. Francisco Manuel Oller (1833-1917)
Hacienda La Fortuna, 1885
oil on Canvas - 66 x 101.6 cm
New York, Brooklyn Museum
Photo : Brooklyn Museum

Acquired at the same moment, a landscape by the Puerto Rican artist, Francisco Manuel Oller, is entitled Hacienda La Fortuna (ill. 3). Having studied at the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Oller then traveled to Paris in 1858 where he trained under Thomas Couture then Gustave Courbet, meeting also Cezanne and Pisarro. In 1859, he exhibited his work alongside Bazille, Renoir, Monet and Sisley. Oller then returned to his native country and founded an art academy there in 1868. José Gallart Fogas, a native of Barcelona living in Puerto Rico, commissioned him to paint a series illustrating his five sugar plantations. Oller finished one of them, now acquired by the Brooklyn Museum : the workers picking the sugar cane on the Fortuna plantation are barely visible while the artist focuses his attention rather on the layout of the site, enclosing the composition with three buildings : the warehouse on the left, the mill where the cane is processed on the right and the plantation owner’s house in the background. However, the main subject of the painting seems to be the changing nature of the sky.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, lundi 14 mai 2012


[1] This practice, debatable in the opinion of The Art Tribune which is against deaccessioning works from public collections, is we know, accepted in American museums which are not subject to any restrictions as long as the proceeds go towards acquiring other art works.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : The Musée Fabre Purchases a Masterpiece by Lionello Spada

Next article in News Items : Vandalism of the Roman Amphitheater in Frejus : The Results