An 18th century painting produced by the most accomplished Mexican artist of his age and lost over intervening decades has been located and recovered from its resting place: under Christina Jones Janssen’s couch in Lafayette.
Miguel Cabrera’s long lost De Español y Morisca; Albina – number 6 in an allegorical series of paintings done by the artist in Mexico City, then the center of art and culture in New Spain, turned out to be among Janssen’s family possessions.
“My dad always told me it was old and probably from Spain,” Janssen told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. “He thought it had some mates there. He wanted me to look into it some day.”
Out of its frame, rolled up and under her couch, the missing work has subsequently been called one of the most important works of Mexican Colonial art in history. After doing her research and succeeding in getting the work authenticated, Janssen donated the canvas in exchange for partial financial remuneration, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Art historians there are doing handsprings. The painting is the sixth in a stylish set of 16 casta paintings executed by Cabrera, generally regarded as the best of their type. The form, controversial by today’s standard, explored the themes of interracial marriages between Indians, Spaniards, and Africans of the age.
De Español y Morisca; Albina depicts a prosperous Spanish father and doting Moorish North African (or Morisca) mother with a happy albino baby.
Eight paintings from the full set of 16 are in Madrid’s Museo de América, five are in a private collection in Monterrey, Mexico, and one is in the Multi-Cultural Music and Art Foundation of Northridge.
Until Janssen decided to research the canvas under her couch two paintings of Cabrera’s set of 16 have been missing. One remains unrecovered.