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Small colonial (mexican or peruvian) writing box.

A quadrangular writing box conformed of a wood chassis inlayed with mother of pearl on a tortoiseshell bottom, decorated with the forms of stylized floral motifs.
The box rests on four short and rounded black wood feet.  It conserves its original ironwork, as well as its two original little keys that serve to open the two sections: the upper one, used to keep the inks, and the lower section, where the paper was kept.

Viceroyalty of the New Spain, or probably Peru.  Second half of the 18th century.

Height: 5.1 in.  Length: 9.8 in. Depth: 9.8 in.

This writing box – erroneously called “bargueño”, name given in a general sense to this and other type of pieces of furniture by Juan Facundo Riaño in the 19th century – belongs to a gender of pieces of furniture produced all over the Spanish Empire since the 16th century and up to the 19th century.

This particular writing box is important for many reasons: its proportions, its simplicity, its equilibrated presentation and its ornamental beauty.  The external work on all of its sides and on the cover is a sophisticated work of inlaying of mother of pearl on a base of tortoiseshell, forming stylized figures representing foliage and floral motifs.  It was common at the time, especially in the Viceroyalty of the New Spain, for artisans to produce works using tortoiseshells (desks, bargueños, coffers, chests, chestsof drawers, tables, painting frames, mirror frames, etc.) to create formidable works of art for the Aristocracy, the Clergy and the members of the Royal Administration.

During the 20th century, many Mexican artists produced replicas of this type of pieces of furniture.  However, our writing box was produced, as has been said, during the second half of the 18th century.  We can know that by carrying on an inspection of the ironwork and the papers that cover the interiors of the drawers, as well as by paying attention to the antiquity of the materials and the woods.  This particular piece's provenance would lead us to think that it was created in the New Spain (now Mexico).  Notwithstanding the latter, we know that between the 17th and 18th centuries commercial exchanges between Lima, Madrid and Mexico City were not rare.  Therefore, it would not be absurd to think that this writing box could as well have been the work of a Peruvian artisan.