LACMA Curator Receives Mysterious Letter from a Missing Painting

Miguel Cabrera, “3.  From Spaniard and Castiza, Spanish Girl (detail)” (1763), oil on canvas
Miguel Cabrera, “3. From Spaniard and Castiza, Spanish Girl (detail)” (1763), oil on canvas
(Image: LACMA)

A mysterious letter penned in a first-person style, as if a painting is speaking, was sent to a curator at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), reported the Los Angeles Times.

The painting at the center of the letter is “Española” (Spanish girl), the final, missing work in a set of 16 casta paintings by Miguel Cabrera (circa 1715–1768) — "a uniquely Mexican genre of ethnographic paintings showcasing children as the result of interracial relationships among the viceroyalty of New Spain colonies," notes Hyperallergic.

LACMA curator of Latin American art, Ilona Katzew, received the letter in 2015 as she prepared for the comprehensive exhibition Painted in Mexico, 1700-1790: Pinxit Mexici, which opens Nov. 19 at the museum.

“You should know that I am well and living less than two (2) miles from LACMA,” “Española” wrote. “I have been in the same family for I believe 60 years, although I do not know how I was acquired.”

Since no contact information was given, Katzew was unable to find the painting, or its owner, but the letter makes for good publicity before the exhibition opens.

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