Probably Spanish Colonial, Possibly Pátzcuaro Mexico. Circa 1760.


Height: 30 1/4" (76.8 cm); Width: 32 3/4" (83.2 cm); Depth Open: 32 3/4" (83.2 cm); Depth Closed: 17 1/2" (44.4 cm).

Of lacquered wood and raised composition work with gilt-brass. The table when closed is raised on four cabriole legs with gilded grotesque masks to the knees. The outer top with incised rococo decoration surrounding a painted brown field, possibly to simulate leather. The rear gate leg swings open to support a top that is decorated with a continuous rocaille “frame” enclosing numerous vignettes of classical and indigenous character. A further flap opens to reveal a well set with drawers all decorated in Chinese-inspired lacquer with subjects such as prunus blossom, monkies and dragons. The reverse side of the flap is centered by an arched d-molded mirror and is flanked by vignettes of classical subjects on a feminine theme surrounded by raised embossed rococo “frames” all on a red opaque ground.

Bears old painted inventory number:

Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb

This polychrome and gilt decorated lady’s folding dressing table is a rare and charming example of the type of furniture produced for society’s upper classes in eighteenth-century Viceregal Latin America. “For the Spanish colonial elite, decorating the home in the latest European styles functioned as a means of social ascent to the upper echelons of community”1 and there was no limit to the acquisition and display of luxury goods.

With the Bourbon dynasty’s rise to power in Spain, social reforms and promotion of enlightenment ideas ultimately had an impact on the arts both at home and abroad. In the Spanish colonies “one sign of this [was] the proliferation of Rococo architecture, retables, furniture, objects for personal use and so forth.”2 Additionally, as a result of peace treaties, New Spain was opened to trade with French, Dutch, and especially English traders who sent a considerable quantity of furniture to the colony.

The Spanish colonies also enjoyed a prime geographic location at the center of the trade route between the Iberian peninsula and Asia. Not only did they benefit from a flow of European imports, but they received goods traveling on Spanish galleons from Manila to Acapulco. Like they had in Europe and North America, these Far Eastern imports had a strong influence on local artistic production, and soon imitations of Chinese and Japanese products such as lacquer, porcelain, and folding screens emerged. In many instances the craftsmen had first hand experience with Asian commodities even before their European counterparts. “If anything characterized interior design in New Spain, it was a hodgepodge of cultures represented, with imported goods from [abroad]…alongside items manufactured by indigenous groups within the territory.”3 A distinctive feature and a staple in colonial Spanish furnishings from the eighteenth century onward is the cabriole leg, adopted from the Queen Anne and Chippendale styles of Great Britain. In certain cases they are adorned at the knee with carved shells, cabochons, acanthus leaves, or grotesque masks, like those on the present piece.

Full research report available on request.


Full research report available on request.