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Fashion, Music, and Secret Messages in a Mexican Folding Screen

by Ilona Katzew & James Middleton

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One of the most fascinating works of art from Mexico at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a folding screen (or biombo) depicting a fête galante (theme of the celebration of love). Biombos were imported to Mexico from Japan through the legendary Manila Galleon at the end of the 16th century, and by the 17th century they had become relatively standard in elite households — some painted by the best artists of the day. This screen, attributed to Miguel Cabrera (c. 1715–1768), stands out for its focus on the figures’ costumes and depiction of an intriguing dance. LACMA curator Ilona Katzew and independent scholar James Middleton discuss some of the elements in this unique screen.

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