This recently acquired jar from the first half of the 18th century speaks to the rich cultural exchange that occurred in the viceroyalty of New Spain. It is an example of Talavera ware, a type of tin-glazed earthenware that was produced in Spain and its colonies and influenced by Islamic ceramic traditions that were introduced to the Iberian Peninsula following the Muslim conquest in the 8th century. The production of colonial Talavera ware began in the 16th century and was centered in Puebla, in the kingdom of Mexico (present-day Mexico). Formerly part of the Aztec Empire, the Puebla region under Spanish rule became a trading outpost linking ports on the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Local potters in Puebla saw trade goods firsthand and often appropriated their appearance. This jar draws from Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, with the pale background glaze emulating the whiteness of porcelain clay and the blue decoration evoking the landscape elements often seen on pottery exported from China. The composition centers around a soaring quetzal, an indigenous bird species that was sacred to the Aztecs, while the geometric band at the base points back to the Islamic origins of Talavera ware. Made to be used or traded locally, Talavera ware nonetheless demonstrates a convergence of global artistic traditions.
Patricia E. Kane
The Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts