A Rare And Early New Mexican Colcha

Item: 1487

Origin: Spanish Colonial New Mexico
Date: Mid 19th century or earlier

Media: Wool embroidered on a cotton base

Dimensions: 83″ by 59.5″ as framed

Description:  This is one of the best colchas both in regard to museums and private holdings.  Likely used as a bedspread for a Spanish Colonial household in what is now New Mexico, its delicate designs, it’s early date (circa 1800 – 1850),  and its execution puts it at the top of the chart.

The book Rio Grande Textiles, complied and edited by Nora Fisher, has an example by the same hand. In the article titled Colcha Embroidery, Plate 106, shows the textile and elements such as deer, paisleys, leaves and flowers that are all the same with this example.

Here we have wool embroidery on a cotton plain weave base in two sections with a seam off of center.  The wool embroidery yarns are all natural dyes. The colors are deep blue (indigo), red/pink (cochineal and or lac), gold, bronze, and brown.  The pink/red, gold and bronze yarns appear to be unraveled from cloth.  The indigo and brown yarns appear to be hand spun.

The design is based on colchas made in Mexico from the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Here, the designs are based on a bordering system that layers into the center.  The center here is built up of three flowers lined up in a row. The most inner border outside from these 3 flowers is a ring of small flowers all of mixed colors.  The following border is a ring of 16 deer all in a running stance and all of multiple colors. The remaining 5 borders are a mixture of flowers/leaves and paisleys all alternating in similar but varying patterns.

Provenance:  Purchased from either the son or grandson of Rowena Matteson Martinez (1909 – 2000) of Taos, NM. Rowena acquired this colcha either from her first husband Ralph Meyers (1885 – 1948),  or her second husband J. Paul Martinez.  Ralph was a Taos artist and trading post entrepreneur. He was responsible for creating the first Taos trading post, El Rincon, of Native American objects coming out of the Pueblos and entering the commercial market. El Rincon Trading Post is a historic shop still located in downtown Taos.  J. Paul Martinez was a descendant of the Martinez family that created and owned the Hacienda de los Martinez outside of Taos and which is now a museum.

El Ricon had a museum as a part of the trading post and this colcha, along with many other objects, were displayed there.  It is not clear if this colcha came out of the Ralph Meyers collection or from the Martinez hacienda.  Either path is full of important, New Mexican history.  Rowena, as written in her obituary, was called the “First Lady of the West” and was a close friend of many of the most infamous Taos luminaries.

Condition:  Holes throughout the cotton base, but the imagery remains mostly intact. The entire colcha has been carefully sewn onto a matching, cotton plain weave backing which is then stretched on a solid frame.

Price: Available on request

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