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The Hispanic Society Museum & Library is delighted to announce the donation from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros of a striking 18th century Venezuelan gilded armchair made by Antonio Mateo de los Reyes (active from 1725 to 1766) for the Brotherhood of Saint Peter for the nave of the Cathedral of Caracas. This gift, made in honor of Laure de Montebello, is part of a donation to five institutions that will receive works of colonial art from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC), including the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), Peru.
The Hispanic Society Museum & Library holds a fine collection of furniture from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia dating from the 15th through the 19th centuries. The carved Venezuelan armchair made by Antonio Mateo de los Reyes around 1755 will be the first piece of furniture from Venezuela to enter the collection. Known as Saint Peter’s Throne (Trono de San Pedro), the chair was commissioned for the Brotherhood of Saint Peter for placement in the nave of the Cathedral of Caracas. The artist, Antonio Mateo de los Reyes, enjoyed a successful career as a master carpenter in Caracas from about 1725 to 1766. The solid rigid structure harks back to Spanish models from the 16th and 17th centuries; the elaborate gilded carving in high relief, however, distinguishes the design as distinctively Venezuelan and sets it apart as one of the finest examples of South American ecclesiastic furniture produced in the 18th century.
Traditionally, ornate chairs of this kind were reserved for important religious ceremonies, and possibly for the display of full-sized sculptural figures such as saint Peter, whose attributes–a papal mitre and two crossed keys—appear at the top of the backrest. The quality of this unique work, its remarkable condition, as well as its important provenance make this chair a significant contribution to the Hispanic Society’s world-renowned collection of Hispanic decorative arts.
Since its founding in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist, Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), the Hispanic Society has promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural tradition of Spain and its area of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The collections of the Hispanic Society are unparalleled in their scope and quality outside of Spain, addressing nearly every aspect of culture in Spain from antiquity through the early 20th century, as we as a large part of Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines. Today, the Hispanic Society stands apart as the most significant collection of Hispanic art and culture in the United States, and contributions made by Hispanic Society curators have had a profound impact on the field of Hispanic art and culture since the founding of the institution. On May 17, 2017, the Hispanic Society was named the recipient of the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation from fields of 19 candidates.
“We are grateful to Patricia Phelps de Cisneros for her generosity and commitment to education and global awareness on the contributions made by artists in Latin America,” said Mitchell A. Codding, Executive Director of the Hispanic Society. “By entrusting the Hispanic Society with this important piece, we will be able to celebrate the sophisticated craftmanship of Venezuelan artists and share the historical significance of such extraordinary works with wider audiences.”
“My husband Gustavo and I are deeply commited to finding permanent homes for the pieces that have been in our temporary care as part of colonial collection of art and objects from Latin America in the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros,” said Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. “The Hispanic Society Museum & Library´s historic mission to promote, collect, study, preserve and share culture from countries where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken gives us every confidence that the magnificent chair constructed by Antonio Mateo de Los Reyes for the Brotherhood of San Pedro will be in good hands. We couldn’t be happier to know that chair will be well cared for, studied, and shared with the public at the Hispanic Society among its other wonderful holdings, and I daresay its maker would be equally delighted.”
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