Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)
Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)
Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)
Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)
Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)

Spanish Colonial Coquera (Coca Box)

c. 1770 UPPER PERU (NOW BOLIVIA), Moxos or Chiquitos

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons

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A Coca Box (Coquera) shaped in the form of a large scallop shell. The hinged cover is formed by radiating gadroons, interspersed with strips of rocaille foliate carvings. The cover is punctuated by an elaborate roundel depicting two figures surmounted by an eagle carved in relief. The sides of the box are decorated with exotic foliage motifs interspersed with putti, birds and monkeys. The box is supported by three wooden feet in the shape of mythological female creatures and scrolls. The interior compartments are lined in green velvet. With silver hinges. Lacking a hasp.

This Coca Box (Coquera) would typically have been used to store coca leaves, which were chewed in Peru before the arrival of the Spaniards and continued to be consumed in colonial times. They could also be used to store yerba maté tea and sweets. From 1572 until the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, the Jesuits carried out a series of missions in Upper Peru, today known as Bolivia. As part of their missionary activities, the Jesuits organised classes in art and trade for the native peoples – the Guarani – in an attempt to convert, educate and train them in arts and crafts. Coca boxes or coqueras were made of precious metals and carved wood. The missions in Moxos and Chiquitos achieved a great deal of recognition for their woodwork and carving, and these wooden boxes would have been covered with silver leaf to resemble the more expensive gold and silver versions. The boxes were exported as luxury goods to the rest of the viceroyalty of Peru. Trade to the western Andes took place through Cochabamba and Potosí, which promoted an active cross-fertilisation of ornamental designs between the lowlands and the Altiplano. While some boxes of this type can be quite simple, the box offered here incorporates the highest quality carving, and a complex and ambitious design.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has two Coca Boxes (Coquera) in its collection, which are of similar size to our box and are listed as having come from Bolivia, possibly Moxos or Chiquitos, and dated circa 1770 (Coca Box (Coquera) (M.2007.30); and Coca Box (Coquera) (M.2009.104).

A comparable box, also believed to originate from Moxos or Chiquitos and dated circa 1780 can be found in the Museo de Arte de Lima, and another box is housed in the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco, Buenos Aires.

The form of this Coquera was probably inspired by earlier silver spice boxes such as the scallop-shaped spice box housed in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, which is dated circa 1602/3 (Spice box by W. R., London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 68.141.277, London, England, 1602/3 – Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968). Although shell-shaped boxes such as this are sometimes referred to as spice boxes, according to early seventeenth-century inventories, they were used for serving sugar, which was an expensive delicacy. In the seventeenth Century, an English tradition was to sweeten wine with sugar or honey, a habit which persisted through the seventeenth century.
Dimensions
Height 16.50 cm (6.50 inches)
Width 29.00 cm (11.42 inches)
Depth 26.50 cm (10.43 inches)
Stock Code
6404
Medium
Carved mahogany, green velvet.
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP
England

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