De Indio y Mestiza, sale Coyote (From Indian and Mestiza, Coyote)
Unknown Artist, Mexico, about 1750. Oil on canvas. 31 1/2 x 41 in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2014.218
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a new and unique genre of painting developed in Mexico. Designed to depict and classify the miscegenation occurring between the three main racial groups (Spaniards, Africans, and Indians), these sets of paintings (usually fourteen to sixteen) contain a wealth of information on the daily life, diet, occupations, clothing, habits, utilitarian objects, and recreations of the era. Often commissioned for export to Spain, casta sets advertised the monetary wealth and natural abundance, in both products and people, of the American territories. The emphasis on ostentation and public display of wealth and abundance in castas became a conscious construct of Mexican self-image and can be associated with the growing nationalism of the late colonial period in Mexico.
At the same time, the new genre of casta painting also reflects the desire to reinforce the stratification of social classes, a European system that was fast breaking down in the New World as a result of various factors, including racial mixing, access to wealth (especially among miners and merchants), and social mobility. The paintings increasingly attempted to reinforce upper-class conceptions of social stratification by privileging family groups that included a Spanish male—showing them early in the series (usually in numbers one to six) and furnishing them with details that suggested a more affluent lifestyle than that of other racial mixtures.
Like many castas, this one portrays a family engaged in occupational activities, thus providing a rare glimpse into the daily life of eighteenth-century Mexico. This beautifully painted example shows the casta family selling birds in a market booth. The man wears the traditional native man’s tunic with woven straw hat; the woman wears the traditional woman’s huipil, or overblouse, executed in gauzework weave, and coral jewelry.
This casta is from the same set as another casta in the Mayer collection entitled “De Lobo y India, sale Albarasado” (2013.354).
--Donna Pierce, 2015
- Exhibited 2005, "Patronato, Painting from Baroque Mexico: Selected Works from the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer," Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
- "Collecting a New World: Spanish Colonial Art from the Jan and Frederick R. Mayer Collection," Apr 2-May 14, 2005, Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy
- "Heaven and Earth: The Jan and Frederick Mayer Collection of Spanish Colonial Art from the Denver Art Museum, Jun 16-Oct 8, 2006, Museo de las Americas, Denver
- "From Viceregal to Verancular: Painting in Colonial Mexico and New Mexico," Nov 17, 2006-Apr 29, 2007, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Santa Fe
- installation, March 19, 2007 - June 5, 2009, Seattle Museum of Art, Seattle, WA. "Fashion Fusion: Native Textiles in Spanish Colonial Art", February 2013 -November 2014, Denver Art Museum. "Glitterati: Portraits & Jewelry from Colonial Latin America," December 2014 - December 2016, Denver Art Museum.