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Traveling Desk (Escritorio)

Decorative Arts

On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830
The inside lid of this Bolivian escritorio features many themes and motifs inspired by medieval and Renaissance European models—Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, lions, stags, unicorns, and dragons. The only indication of the escritorio’s New World origins is found on the desk’s drop front: a scene of a man in an Andean tunic being trampled by a bull as a darker-skinned man looks on. By commissioning this detail, the original owner may have wanted to communicate the viceroyalty’s diverse population and imposed socio-racial hierarchy.

The stunning workmanship of this escritorio’s wood inlay and its expensive materials distinguish the object as a luxury possession.

La tapa interior de este escritorio boliviano destaca muchos de los temas y adornos inspirados en modelos de la Europa medieval y renacentista—Adán y Eva en el Jardín del Edén, leones, ciervos, unicornios y dragones. La única indicación de que el escritorio la procede del Nuevo Mundo se encuentra en la tapa frontal abatible: una escena de un hombre con túnica andina siendo pisoteado por un toro mientras un hombre de piel más oscura lo observa. Al encargar este detalle, el propietario original pudo haber querido comunicar la diversidad de la población en el virreinato y la jerarquía socio-racial imperante.

La impresionante habilidad en el trabajo de la taracea de madera de este escritorio y sus costosos materiales distinguen a este objeto como una posesión de lujo.

MEDIUM Cedar or walnut, citrus and other wood inlays, and iron
DATES early 18th century
DIMENSIONS 9 1/4 x 16 3/8 x 12 in. (23.5 x 41.6 x 30.5 cm) installed dims with BCD m-1 primary mount: 20 x 16 3/4 x 14 in. (50.8 x 42.5 x 35.6 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
CREDIT LINE Gift of Leo E. Fleischman
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CAPTION Traveling Desk (Escritorio), early 18th century. Cedar or walnut, citrus and other wood inlays, and iron, 9 1/4 x 16 3/8 x 12 in. (23.5 x 41.6 x 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Leo E. Fleischman, 45.175.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 45.175.5_PS4.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 45.175.5_PS4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Portable writing cabinet with a lifting lid and drop-front. Rectangular in shape, standing on four ball feet, with hinged cover and hinged drop leaf in front. Circular iron lock, iron hasps, and key. The top of the box on the inside, under the cover, is divided into one large compartment and five small compartments. The front of the box, under the drop lid, consists of four drawers: a row of three drawers and below that one long drawer. On the long drawer, and on the central small drawer above it is a silver pull in shell form. The pulls of the other two drawers are silver (?) cut out medallions terminating in hand-like form. With the exception of the back and bottom of the box the brown wood is richly ornamented with marquetry in various woods. The top of the box (exterior) shows two lions resting on a heart and surrounded by flowers and leafy stems; they are surrounded by a bull, elephant, unicorn, deer, etc. together with two huntsmen (one holding gun, the other a sword) with floral borders. The front of the box depicts a man on horseback spearing a bull. The bull is trampling a figure wearing an Andean tunic. The right side shows various birds and animals with huntsmen amid thick foliage. The designs on the left side are similar though with varied birds and animals. One the inside cover Adam and Eve are depicted on either side of an apple tree on which is a serpent, the scene surrounded by birds and animals. A border of birds and flowering vines edges this part. On the inside, top, a typical arabesque border of flowers and leaves adorns the sides. The interior of the drop leaf is adorned with composite dragon-animal figures, a pelican, and a floral border interspersed with birds. The back of the box show some thin marquetry lines.
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