In the 1700s, as the intellectual ideas of the Enlightenment spread around the world, there was an increased interest in depicting secular (non-religious) themes in art, such as the classics and science. This painting and its mate (2013.321.2) show a variety of both real and mythical New World birds. The birds are labeled (clockwise from the left): Pajaro Canoa, Lechuza, Ganga, Pinto Real, Loro, Misto, Cotorrera. Both paintings are signed “Guiol fecit en Mexico” [Guiol made in Mexico].
Paintings such as these attempted to scientifically classify the New Spanish world for a European audience, similar to casta paintings. In fact, the creator of these paintings, Buenaventura José Guiol, of which very little is known, painted at least two surviving series of castas (MFA Boston, private collection). The DAM bird paintings were part of a larger series since these two are numbered on the back as “2” and “3”. Like many castas, these paintings may have been made for export to Spain, where they were collected. And indeed recently four other paintings of New World fauna resurfaced in a private collection in Paris.
--Julie Wilson Frick and Donna Pierce, 2015
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