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Traveling Desk (Escritorio)

Decorative Arts and Design

On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830
Using woods native to the Andes, the maker of this escritorio (traveling desk) embellished the simple, rectilinear form with popular European motifs such as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as well as lions, stags, unicorns, and dragons. On the desk’s drop front (see illustration), an Indigenous figure in an Andean tunic is trampled by a bull as an African huntsman looks on—a detail that reflects the perceived socio-racial hierarchies maintained by elites of Spanish descent in the Americas.
MEDIUM Cedar or walnut, citrus and other wood inlays, and iron
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS
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)
ACCESSION NUMBER 45.175.5
CREDIT LINE Gift of Leo E. Fleischman
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.
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
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RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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