Connections Across Collections: Gratitude

With more than 25,000 objects, the DMA’s encyclopedic collection is a treasured source of inspiration. Our curators selected works from across collections to express sentiments of gratitude—read their picks below!

Deborah Roberts, When you see me, 2019, mixed media and collage on canvas, Dallas Museum of art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2020.20, © Deborah Roberts. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. 

Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art 
“I am thankful for the contributions of Texas artists to our collection. One of my favorite recent acquisitions is by Austin-based Deborah Roberts, whose When you see me is a work of heartbreaking beauty that elicits an honest reckoning from the viewer.” 

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1846-1847, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund, 1973.5

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art 
“Hicks’s allegory centered around themes of peace and unity resonates at this moment when we at the DMA yearn for companionship and understanding. Hicks’s painting is an ideal and historic model for the possibility of peaceful coexistence and of gratitude for the blessings of community.” 

Ex-voto Dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, 1886, Mexico, oil on tin, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Foundation, 1961.84

Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art 
“C. Nicolaz Moralez fell from a tree on October 7, 1886. Carried home in a blanket, he prayed to Saint Martin. After his recovery, he commissioned this small ex-voto to offer his thanks to the saint for healing him.” 

Lorna Simpson, Blue Turned Temporal, 2019, ink, watercolor, and screenprint on gessoed fiberglass, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2020.16, © Lorna Simpson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: James Wang 

Vivian Crockett, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art 
“I’m grateful for recent acquisitions that not only highlight the strength of the artists in question, but also make possible meaning dialogues with existing works in the collection. Lorna Simpson’s Blue Turned Temporal (2019) exemplifies her lifelong commitment to interrogating supposedly universalist frameworks and in turn, enriches our understanding of Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs (1861), a beloved work in the DMA’s collection.” 

Qur’an, Damascus, Syria, 1340, ink, gold and colors on paper (modern binding), Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.578, fol.217v. 

Dr. Heather Ecker, The Marguerite S. Hoffman & Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic & Medieval Art 
“A well-known verse in the Qur’an tells us that the expression of gratitude is for the benefit of one’s own soul (Q 31:12). It can be read in the third and fourth lines of this page from a manuscript on view in the Keir Collection gallery.” 

Kazuo Shiraga, Imayo Ranbu (Modern Dance), 2000, oil on canvas, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2013.21, ©︎ The Estate of Kazuo Shiraga 

Dr. Vivian Li, Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art 
“The bright, explosive colors of Imayo Ranbu evokes the vigorous energy and movements of the artist in creating this foot painting. The title’s reference to the festive dance (ranbu) of the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan further conveys a mood of celebration and joy.” 

Louis Anquetin, Woman at Her Toilette, 1889, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2020.3.FA 

Dr. Nicole R. Myers, The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Senior Curator of European Art
“I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of Dallas’s own Foundation for the Arts. Through its dedication and sustained support, we are able to add masterpieces to the DMA’s galleries, such as Louis Anquetin’s Woman at Her Toilette. This exquisite recent acquisition by an artist in Van Gogh’s circle debuts in the European galleries this month.” 

Artist once known, Chancay, doll, 1000–1460, cotton and camelid fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of John Wise, 1983.W.2181 
Artist once known, Wari (Huari), tunic with profile heads and step frets, 850–950 CE, cotton and camelid fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Carol Robbins’ 40th anniversary with the Dallas Museum of Art, 2004.55.McD 
Artist once known, Maya, Tzutujil, spindle with white cotton, 1970, wood and cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, The Carolyn C. and Dan C. Williams Collection of Guatemalan Textiles, 1982.274.A-B
Artist once known, Chimayo or Rio Grande, blanket, c. 1900–1920, cotton and wool, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of John Lunsford, 2003.51

Dr. Michelle Rich, Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of Arts of the Americas 
“Materials used to spin yarn and tools employed to produce cloth may vary across time and space, but weaving in the Americas is a rich tradition that is thousands of years old. Textiles are extremely fragile, and I am grateful the DMA has the opportunity to help preserve a wide range of works: from Andean dolls and tunics to Maya wooden weaving tools to Chimayo and Navajo blankets.” 

David Clarke, Family Matter, 2020, sterling silver, silverplate, pewter, common salt, paint, and sugar, Dallas Museum of Art, Silver Supper Fund, 2019.96 

Sarah Schleuning, Interim Chief Curator and The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design 
“Comprised of heirloom silver contributed by DMA staff, patrons, and trustees, Family Matter embodies the meaning and memory instilled in treasured family objects. With this work, David Clarke created a unified vision of our extended communities reminding us that the past and present continue to be connected, often in new and unexpected ways.” 

Sword ornament in the form of a spider, Ghana, Asante peoples, late 19th century, gold-copper-silver alloy, Dallas Museum of Art, McDermott African Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.26.1

Dr. Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art 

“Thanks to the McDermott African Art Acquisition Fund, the DMA was able to acquire a 19th century cast gold sword ornament in the form of a spider from Ghana. What I learned about it inspired an awesome exhibition, The Power of Gold, and brought Asante royalty to the Dallas.” 

Literary Gratitude: An Arts & Letters Live Reading List

Arts & Letters Live Director Carolyn Bess and Program Manager Carolee Klimchock compiled a list of book recommendations and musings focused on gratitude from acclaimed authors, many of whom have been featured in the DMA’s signature literary series. Arts & Letters Live will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021; explore upcoming programs here.

Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential  
Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers 
Maria Shriver, I’ve Been Thinking . . . Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life  
Oliver Sacks, Gratitude  
Books for children: 
Oge Mora, Thank You, Omu!, a tale of generosity, sharing, community, and gratitude; a Caldecott Honor Book 
The Five Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids

What are you thankful for? 
Arts & Letters Live authors share their insights:

Gratitude for the Ancestors 
Alice Randall, in her recent Arts & Letters Live virtual talk, described how her novel Black Bottom Saints grew from the wisdom she gained about radical joy and resilience from the ancestors.  The African American musicians and artists profiled in her book, who she terms the “saints” of the historic Detroit neighborhood Black Bottom, movingly transform past traumas into transcendent art.  Among the multimedia elements created for the book, one is a quiz to determine which ancestor or saint you need at any given time.  Right now, could you use a boost of resilience, joy, or help through a difficult time?  Take the “Who’s Your Saint” quiz to see whose inspiration can guide you.  

Gratitude for Words 
Avid readers might all be deemed logophiles (lovers of words), but Louise Erdrich intones an impassioned appreciation for the written words saved in archives which made her latest research-driven novel possible.  From the National Archives and other libraries, she found letters her own grandfather had written and documents that helped her create the captivating fictional characters in The Night Watchman , who capture the true historical triumph of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and who saved their tribe from termination.   

Gratitude for Family Quirks  
Every family has them: unconventional traditions, eccentric relatives, and even family feuds.  Poet Richard Blanco shows gratitude for all the charming, quirky traits that make his family singularly endearing. Betting on who will win the Miss America pageant each year was a heated and time-honored tradition for his Cuban American family in Miami—even though no one quite knew where Ohio was—a tale he humorously recounts in his poem “Betting on America” from How to Love a Country. The DMA commissioned Blanco to write a new poem inspired by works of art and themes in the current My|gration exhibition. Listen to him read it. 

Staff Spotlight: “To Be Determined”

Organized through collaboration among the entire curatorial team over the DMA’s five-month closure, To Be Determined represents the power of art amidst uncertainty and invites viewers to uncover new and personal meanings in objects from the Museum’s vast collection.  

Staff from across the Museum share their inspiration and determination in bringing this exhibition to life:

Hayley Caldwell, Copy and Content Marketing Writer 
“In the context of bringing this exhibition to life, I was inspired by the many creative possibilities and meanings that each grouping of artworks can convey, and how the nature of the show is to embrace and give importance to the viewers’ own interpretations. I was and am determined to support this experience by fostering a digital space where viewers can make and discuss their own connections.” 

Jessie Carrillo, Manager of Adult Programs 
“In the context of bringing this exhibition to life, I was inspired by the passion DMA curators have for the collections they steward and the objects they selected. I was determined to capture this passion in a series of virtual curator spotlight talks with the goal of moving visitors to find something in the exhibition that speaks to them.” 

Lizz DeLera, Creative Director 
“The theme of this exhibition and the zeitgeist subject matter that the curatorial team put so much thought into spurred me on to be determined to showcase the works and the shared themes they represent. I did this by conceptualizing a resonating and experiential microsite to manifest with ‘chapters’ that speak to the common thread of what people are currently feeling and experiencing in these challenging times.” 

Tara Eaden, Operations Manager 
“In the context of bringing this exhibition to life, I was inspired by the Dallas Museum of Art’s strength and determination to preserve and continue to bring art alive despite the current times. I am still elated to witness the diversity and inclusion within the exhibition, as works from Dallas based artists Oshay Green and Jammie Holmes are on view. I was determined to ensure that the works of art were displayed in a space that is comfortable and pristine for a positive and memorable visitor experience.” 

Jaclyn Le, Senior Graphic Designer 
“In the context of bringing this exhibition to life, I was inspired by my colleagues’ shared passion to create an exhibition that encourages dialogue surrounding the current state of the world. I was determined to design a graphic identity that was delicate yet strong, embodying the idea of resiliency, and to create a color palette that was in harmony the wide range of works shown. Both have been implemented across both web and print platforms, and is successfully weaved into the exhibition’s microsite.” 

Brian Peterman, Lighting Preparator 
“I was inspired by the curators’ selections and the thought-provoking juxtapositions these created. I was determined to develop the dramatic lighting effects that they were seeking, with areas of concentrated light surrounded by deep shadow, such as in the gallery where Frederick Church’s The Icebergs and Lorna Simpson’s Blue Turned Temporal are quietly alone together. The show turned out beautifully, with a moody and introspective atmosphere that reflects the tone of the unusual times in which we’re living.” 

Claudia Sánchez, Associate Registrar for Exhibitions  
“In the context of bringing this exhibition to life, I was inspired by a personal need and yearning for the kind of kinship and camaraderie uniquely shared between colleagues and I was determined to be as accommodating and empathetic to fellow staff as a result of the collective challenges experienced due to new COVID rules and procedures. Despite the obstacles, our team safely and successfully installed the show and relished in the satisfaction of being onsite and feeling industrious again.” 

Under the Influence: What Inspired Picasso

Picasso’s first financial success came in spring 1906, when he sold the entire inventory of his studio to art dealer Ambroise Vollard for the then large sum of 2,000 francs. This allowed him and his partner, Fernande Olivier, to travel to Barcelona and from there to the Pyrenean village Gósol. In Spain, Picasso was a different person, Olivier remembered: “As soon as he returned to his native Spain, and especially to its countryside, he was perfused with its calm and serenity. This made his works lighter, airier, less agonized.” It is not surprising then that in the almost three months the couple spent in Gósol, Picasso produced more than 300 paintings, drawings, and sculptures with Olivier as his main model. A significant change in his style announced itself during these months, influenced in part by the spare landscape and the region’s unique colors, but also by two exhibitions he recently saw: the Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres retrospective at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, and a display of Iberian art at the Louvre from recent excavations in Andalusia.

Pablo Picasso, Nude with Folded Hands, 1906, gouache on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., bequest of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 2019.67.19.McD

A diamond pattern and the contours of a figure bleed through the thin paint of the pale pink background in Nude with Folded Hands. Only Olivier’s own ocher outlines set her apart from the nondescript, empty environment in which she is standing, giving the painting the effect of a bas-relief. The voluptuous body seems awkwardly twisted at its waist and shoulders, the head is slightly bent down, and her almond-shaped eyes are closed. In its rigidity, the face evokes Iberian art as well as a sculpture bust of Olivier, Head of a Woman, that Picasso made in the same year. Standing in front of her beholder, she is timidly folding her hands; however, her modesty is a false one, her hands revealing more than they hide, guiding the viewers gaze. Olivier often posed in the nude for Picasso, and while the young artist frequently made small drawings and caricatures of his sexual escapades, the studies and paintings of Olivier from 1906 stand out through their intimate eroticism, absent in his earlier works and in the following years.

Pablo Picasso, Bust, 1907-08, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan, Loula D. Lasker, Ruth and Nathan Cummings Art Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Marcus, Sarah Dorsey Hudson, Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, Henry Jacobus and an anonymous donor, by exchange, 1987.399.FA,
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bust, probably painted in the winter of 1907-08, looks fundamentally different than Nude with Folded Hands⁠—and much had happened in the meantime. In spring or summer 1907, he visited the indigenous art and culture collection at the Musée du Trocadéro in Paris, which was dusty and deserted, but opened Picasso’s eyes to a new influence: art from outside the Western canon, originating from European colonies in Africa and Oceania; this led him to finish his monumental painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, MoMA). Finally, at the Salon d’Automne, he saw the retrospective dedicated to Paul Cézanne. These exhibitions had a great influence on Picasso’s artistic development and his quest for an escape from the confines of illusionistic art, established during the Renaissance. Picasso further explored the pictorial means of simplification; the muscular woman in Bust, lifting her arms above her head and pulling her hair into a bun, is reduced to outlines and shading that is achieved through isolated application of color and expressive brushstrokes, rather than the traditional method of gradients from white to black. Her face, devoid of emotion, echoes the masks he saw at the Trocadéro, which might have looked like the Je face mask from the Yaure peoples.

Je face mask, Yaure peoples, about 1930-52, wood and pigment, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2018.7.McD

The fragmented body is reduced to basic geometric shapes, with their contours opening so that the background and the foreground merged, like Picasso had observed in Cézanne’s work.

Paul Cézanne, The Rooftops, about 1898, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., bequest of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 2019.67.6.McD

Despite being celebrated as an inventor, Picasso never worked in an artistic vacuum. Trying to find a new language from 1906 onward, he was especially perceptible to influences from outside the traditional Western canon, which makes these works compelling, even for the present-day beholder.

Christine Burger is the Research Assistant for European Art at the DMA.

On the Road: A Public Art Tour

Embark on a tour of the great ARTdoors! This summer, we compiled a list of public artworks around Dallas—from sculptures, to murals, to memorials—that you can see from the comfort of your car. By popular demand, we are pleased to present a second edition. Follow these maps to discover how artists have brought North Texas to life.

Dallas: Art Outdoors (Part Two)

Dallas: Art Outdoors (Part One)

A Meaningful Mural: Then and Now

“I wish to commend you for accepting the commission to execute this painting which emphasizes the dignity of human nature. It is most appropriate that the people of the United States and Mexico are reaching one another’s cultures by mutual encouragement of the fine arts.” 

This quote is from a telegram sent by the governor of Texas to Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo on the installation of his mural painting El Hombre at the Dallas Museum of Fine Art in October 1953. The genesis of the mural, commissioned by the Dallas Museum of Fine of Art, is directly related to the statements embodied in this quote.

Rufino Tamayo, El Hombre (Man), 1953, vinyl with pigment on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association commission, Neiman-Marcus Company Exposition Funds, 1953.22

Stanley Marcus, a long-time supporter of the Museum and president of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, had been trying to convince the Board that collecting Latin American art was a golden opportunity in advance of what would become mainstream status. Marcus had become close with artist Rufino Tamayo and his wife, Olga, after meeting through friends in Mexico and invited them to visit Dallas. A visit was planned for October 1951, with Marcus hosting the Tamayos prior to four days of lectures and events at the Museum.

Rufino Tamayo speaking to the Dallas Art Association

They were expected to arrive in Dallas early in the evening from Amarillo, where Tamayo was giving a lecture. Marcus became increasingly concerned as the hours passed beyond their expected arrival time. When Rufino and Olga finally made it to the Marcus home late in the evening, they were clearly shaken and it was obvious something had happened. The Tamayos explained that their car had been hit, the other driver had called them by a racial slur, and the police charged them with the accident even though it wasn’t their fault. Tamayo was so appalled by the treatment they had endured that he didn’t think he wanted to do anything in the United States. Marcus responded that he thought it was a job for all of us to work to change the impressions that some Texans had of people from Mexico.

Marcus would go on to explain to Tamayo that one of his reasons for being interested in Mexican painting was because he thought that it was the key to establishing warm and understanding relations between the US and Mexico. Marcus once said in an Oral History interview in January 2002, “As you get to know more about the art and culture of the other countries, you begin to have respect for them. You have respect for the art, you have respect for the individuals who created it.”

Tamayo admitted that he had not thought of it that way. Marcus used this opportunity to extract a promise to create a large-scale painting, a mural, on a subject of the artist’s own devising. Tamayo even agreed to produce the mural for a fraction of his usual rate to accommodate the Museum’s lack of funds.

While Tamayo agreed to paint a mural for the DMFA in October 1951, he did not complete the work until the summer of 1953. El Hombre was briefly shown at the Salon de la Plastica Mexicana. In a review of the showing for the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior, Margarita Nelken wrote that the painting was a “transcendental work of the contemporary Mexican school.”

Rufino Tamayo and Stanley Marcus standing with Tamayo’s El Hombre
DMFA staff in front of Rufino Tamayo’s mural El Hombre before installation in 1953

The painting arrived in Dallas on September 18, 1953—after a four-week train trip that included a delay due to flooding—and premiered on October 8 during the State Fair of Texas.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the DMA.

Connections Across Collections: Latin American Influence

As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, we’re spotlighting artworks and objects in our collection that were created with influence from Latin American culture and artists. We asked curators from across departments for their picks, and here’s what they had to say:

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art

The year before settling in Taos, Emil Bisttram studied with Diego Rivera in Mexico. This painting’s volumetric forms and linear qualities evidence Rivera’s influence. It bears the hallmarks of Bisttram’s work from the early 1930s that often depicted Native Americans and the artist’s all-consuming interest in New Mexico’s architecture and landscape.

Emil J. Bisttram, Pueblo Woman, 1932, tempera and oil glaze on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Royal C. Miller, 1960.165

Dr. Michelle Rich, The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas, and Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art

Keros (ceremonial wooden cups from the Andes) in the DMA’s collection range in date from the 15th century through the Spanish viceregal period. As on the elegant kero with palm trees and flowers, their decoration can recall the geometric designs favored in the indigenous art of the pre-contact Inka Empire (for comparison, see this ceramic kero and checkerboard tunic). The cups, however, could also feature complex narratives. The kero with plowing scene depicts a man driving a plow ox, followed by two women: the first woman is planting seeds, and the second is ceremonially raising a pair of keros in the air (for more detail, see the rollout photograph of the upper portion).

Upper left: Quero (qerokero) with palm trees and flowers, Peru, Inca, mid-17th–late 18th century, wood and pigmented resin inlay, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.1849; Upper right and bottom: Quero (qerokero): plowing with oxen, Peru, Inca, 17th–18th century, wood, metal, cane, and pigmented resin inlay, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.1851

Latinx Literature: An Arts & Letters Live Reading List

Looking for some inspiration, a deeper dive into current issues, or your next favorite recipe? Here’s a list of books recommended by the Arts & Letters Live team honoring Hispanic Heritage month. 

Fiction: 
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Nonfiction:
Silver, Sword, and Stone by Marie Arana
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú

Silver, Sword, and Stone by Marie Arana

Children’s Picture Books:
Love by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Both authors and illustrators previously featured at Arts & Letters Live!

Yuyi Morales presenting Dreamers at Arts & Letters Live in 2019

Young Adult Fiction:
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Poetry:
Tertulia by Vincent Toro

Tertulia by Vincent Toro

Memoirs:
Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez
Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe Moraga

Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez

Cookbooks:
Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza
My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson

Unrestrained Luxury & Unlocking Secrets: The 17th-Century Torre Tagle Cabinet

The Spanish Colonial Gallery on Level 4 at the DMA

This opulent cabinet is among the Dallas Museum of Art’s most glittering masterpieces—and one of my favorites. The marquetry and inlay that cover its exterior and interior is composed of thousands of intricately fitted pieces of mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell, further accentuated with ivory and gilt wood elements, as well as brass wire and nails. This extravagant use of precious materials over the cabinet’s surfaces creates a sense of unrestrained luxury, signaling the wealth and status of its owners.

Scholars once believed that the cabinet was made in Goa, India, or perhaps in Manila, Philippines, but recent studies have revised that thinking. We now place its production in Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru during the Spanish viceregal period. This is in part because of the abundance of furniture with this style of decoration—writing desks, sewing boxes, chests, etc.—that can be found there today, in churches and in private collections.

Cabinet, about 1680–1700, mahogany, mother-of-pearl, ivory, and tortoiseshell, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Eugene McDermott Foundation, in honor of Carol and Richard Brettell, 1993.36

Lima was a regional and global trade hub at the end of the 17th century. This gave furniture makers access to a wealth of precious materials, such as Spanish cedar and Central American hardwoods, which were often used for the interior structures of cabinets like this one. The precisely cut pieces of mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell may have also been imported, perhaps shipped in pre-cut standardized shapes.

Existing literature says the cabinet once belonged to Melchor Portocarrero, the third count of Monclova; I have found no concrete proof of this but am intrigued by the legend. It was thought that he commissioned the piece from Goa or Manila while living in Mexico City and acting as the viceroy of New Spain (1686–88), later taking the cabinet with him to Lima when he became viceroy of Peru (1689–1715). If the cabinet did belong to the count of Monclova, it now seems more likely that he commissioned the work directly from a workshop in Lima. Almost nothing is known about the furniture makers in Lima during this period, although there were almost certainly specialized makers dedicated to this style of decoration.

Cabinet (detail)

One important clue in the cabinet’s history can be found on its crest, which contains a painting of the coat of arms of the marquises of Torre Tagle, set in a double-headed eagle decorated with mother-of-pearl. Granted their title by King Philip V of Spain in 1730, the Torre Tagle family were prominent members of Lima’s aristocracy. The third marquis of Torre Tagle married a descendent of the count of Monclova, which was long thought to explain how the cabinet came into the family’s possession. It is possible, however, that the work’s original commissioners were the marquises themselves.

So, while there is much that isn’t known about the cabinet, the DMA is working to unlock its secrets. In the meantime, it remains the grandest example of this style of furniture in a public collection anywhere in the world, and one of the highlights of the Museum’s Level 4 galleries.

Take an inside look at the cabinet here:

Dr. Mark A. Castro is The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art at the DMA.

You Asked, They Answered! #AskaCurator Highlights

The DMA participated in #AskaCurator Day on Twitter last week—a day that harnessed the power of social media to connect our curators to just about anyone with a Twitter account and a burning question. Users tweeted their questions using the #AskaCurator hashtag for our seven participating curators to respond to. This resulted in a wide-ranging (and fun!) array of answers, from absurd museum gifs to personal anecdotes. Here are a few of the highlights:

Q: What is your favorite museum gif?

Q: How important is social media to seeing and finding new artists?

Q: What’s one of the weirdest paintings in your collection?

Q: What is your biggest “OMG I can’t believe I get to work/handle these object(s), pieces of history, etc.”?

Q: How have you done your job during the pandemic?

Follow us on Twitter to read through all of our #AskaCurator threads!


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