Black lacquered chest with painted decorations in blue, gree, rose, white, and gold, "rayado." Cover has a central design of light and dark blue, gold and green wreaths with a spray of roses and smaller flowers, white ribbons entwined. Border of of floral and geometric designs. Front has central panel with scene of small boats, rowed by men, in a blue stream, green hills with white houses and large buildings in backgroud. Borders with floral motifs. Sides decorated with central design of flowers and bird wings above. Interior covered with red lacquer.
Artisans in the southwestern Mexican town of Olinalá, long recognized for making exceptional lacquer wares, created this large, ornately lacquered dowry chest. The production was typically divided by gender: women prepared the raw materials and applied the base coat of lacquer; men added decorative elements. The Mead’s trunk exemplifies a type of brush work application known as the dorado style, and features an abundance of highly organized marriage symbolism, including roses, doves, and wreaths. The front of the trunk shows a more crudely rendered scene of men in boats, possibly copied from a print source, and framed by bands of intricate abstract decoration.
This dowry chest belongs to a large collection of Spanish Colonial and Mexican vernacular artworks that Dwight Morrow (Class of 1895) collected with his wife, Elisabeth (Smith College Class of 1896), during his ambassadorship to Mexico from 1927 to 1930. The Morrows filled their home in Cuernavaca with their collection, where it manifested their love of Mexican culture and the ambassador’s desire to promote understanding and cooperation between the two countries.