Digital doings: From Shakers to Conquistadors

Sammy Dalati Curious Objects, Magazine

Teuraheimata a Potoru by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), 1891. Photograph courtesy of Jill Newhouse Gallery, New York.

Those who have been watching this space, as the saying goes, will know that a new Curious Objects season has been in the works for some time. Happily, by the time you’re reading this, that season will be available for your delectation. It is the first to make full use of the format that we test-drove last January in the “Once Upon a Bowl” episode—multiple guests, musical interludes, and emphasis on the storytelling chops of host Benjamin Miller.

Three auditory investigations are on tap, each broken into multiple parts. One is a deep dive into the curious case of the painting that graced ANTIQUES’ September/ October cover: Bélizaire and the Frey Children. Miller sits down with the painting’s owner—and its primary advocate— Jeremy Simien, as well as scholars, collectors, and other experts in the field involved with the painting’s journey from museum castoff to much-fêted cipher for the antebellum South, and attempts to nail down why its eponymous figure was forgotten for so long. Also on tap are Jill Newhouse, who’s bringing a new Tahiti picture by Gauguin to market, and an exploration of what we might call the Shakers’ three Fs: “Feminism” (applied broadly), Furniture, and a Future that was seemingly snuffed out by celibacy and the changing social and economic pressures of the nineteenth century.

Bélizaire and the Frey Children, attributed to Jacques Amans (1801–1888), c. 1837. Collection of Jeremy K. Simien; photograph by Selina McKane.

We’re very proud of what we’ve come up with, and hope you’ll check it out. As always, tune in to Curious Objects on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or navigate to ANTIQUES’ website and select the “Podcast” tab.

Marching triumphantly into Tenochtitlan in the early sixteenth century, Hernán Cortés and his troops encountered a cosmopolis bigger than most European cities of the time, inhabited by a mix of peoples from across the New World. Over the ensuing decades, as what had been the Aztec capital began its slow metamorphosis into Mexico City, it added residents from across the Atlantic: Spanish men, and the enslaved Africans who accompanied them . . . but vanishingly few Spanish women.

The upcoming TMAexplains video will excavate New Spain’s racialized caste system, which is illuminated by casta paintings from the period of the viceroyality.

This posed a problem for the Spanish crown, which needed to increase the population and productivity of New Spain while maintaining Spanish control. To allay concerns that Spanish blood—and thus Spanish power—was being diluted, colonists commissioned artists to paint what are, to modern eyes, curious works that documented New Spain’s racialized hierarchy (Spaniards on top, of course), and demonstrated by what genetic alchemy the scion of a European and a Native or Black woman could, within a certain number of generations, become a full-blooded Spaniard.

Chandravali Martínez, author of the Allegory of Venus and Cupid video that’s part of ANTIQUES’ YouTube series, TMAexplains, returns to demystify the origins and aspects of casta (Spanish for “caste”) paintings, a unique artistic genre that was part societal record, part rulebook, and part exotica. Find TMAexplains on YouTube, or visit our website and select the “Video” tab at the top of the page.

The formal garden at Bankshaven, Newnan, Georgia, featured as part of ANTIQUES’ Instagram series LivingWithAntiques.

Alice Winchester, the second editor of The Magazine ANTIQUES, was never afraid to chart her own course. When she approved the first installment of ANTIQUES’ long-running feature series “Living with Antiques” in 1943, that article was notable for its neighborly tone—one quite different from the scholarly tenor that ANTIQUES’ founding editor, Homer Eaton Keyes, had fostered.

As Laura Beach explained in our January/February issue of this year, “Living with Antiques” has blossomed in the nearly eighty years since its inception, each article giving readers access to homes bursting with art and antiques theretofore hidden from public view.

To pay homage to “Living with Antiques” and to introduce superlative examples of houses and collections from the series’ history to those who might never have seen them, ANTIQUES’ digital manager Sarah Bilotta dedicates an Instagram post to the series every Friday, with a link to the original article. Thus far, among other places, we’ve seen inside a Victorian Gothic-revival mansion in San Antonio designed by the expatriate British architect Alfred Giles; taken a trip to the Virgin Islands to survey a mid-eighteenth-century Christiansted town house; and returned to Bankshaven, the Georgia residence of late ANTIQUES contributor William Nathaniel Banks. There’s much more to come. Follow along on Instagram by searching “antiquesmag,” and look for the “LivingWithAntiques” hashtag.