Colonial Mexican Dining Room, Audio Tour Track #3007
Colonial Mexican Dining Room, Peter Westcott, 1991, 1:12 scale
Colonial Mexican Dining Room, located in our museum's Exploring the World Gallery.
A roombox created by Peter Westcott and furnished by Pat Arnell in 1991. The piece was created in 1:12 scale, where one inch in miniature is equivalent to 12 inches in the full scale.
Colonial Mexican Dining Room is a celebration of tradition and collaboration, the labor of many artisans coming together to create a moment frozen in time. This particular piece is a single room, twelve inches high by 25 ½ inches wide and twelve inches deep, set into our gallery wall and framed behind glass with a rustic, heavy wooden frame. The roombox itself is by the artisan Peter Westcott, whose training as an architect led him to a rewarding career in miniature room design and restoration. This dining room features the influence of Spanish design flavors as they would be interpreted in Colonial Mexico. Westcott covered the floor of this piece with red Spanish terra cotta tiles and coated the walls with clean white stucco, slightly rough to the touch. He fashioned long, dark, parallel wooden beams across the high flat ceiling, juxtaposed against alternating wooden slats painted to create teal diamond patterns. There are two heavily carved Spanish-style doors leading into the room, opposite one another on the left and on the right. These doorways are framed in deeply-set teal niches, each with traditional but stylized conch archways. Built into the back wall of the room is a beehive fireplace, enveloped in matching white stucco and carved at its apex to resemble a pineapple- a symbol of welcome.
The color palette of the room is at once simplistic and bright, complementing the Southwestern decor items added by our Museum Founder, Pat Arnell. In the center of the dining room is a rectangular dining table with four sidechairs, replicas of Spanish Colonial fruitwood chairs, featuring backs with turned posts and three parallel carved slats. This dining set was hand crafted by Joe Franek, a Tucson miniature artisan who specialized in the Spanish-flavored Southwestern style. Franek also hand-carved all of the other pieces of furniture in the room, including a traditional wood and leather slingseat savanarola, located against the far-right wall; the buffet with two cupboards and three center drawers, and the matching small hutch, known as a trastero, both located against the back wall of the room, to the right and to the left of the fireplace, respectively.
On the table is a limited edition reproduction set of a pitcher and goblets made by Pete Acquisto - they are of a design by Thomas Moore dating back to 1785. Fellow silversmith Wesley Whitman produced a sterling tea set located on the buffet. On the floor, rubbing its head against one of the chairs, is a hand-painted cat by Charles Claudon.
On this particular afternoon the dining room slumbers, resting in the calm before the next flurry of activity. The room is spotless, freshly swept and dusted, logs placed neatly in the fireplace. The silver has been polished and the ceramic pots and serving dishes have been placed once more in the cupboards of the trastero. One can almost hear the hum of women hard at work in a nearby kitchen, or the contented purring of the cat as he revels in having the room all to himself. A lone bowl of fruit sits welcomingly on the table, an open invitation. Mirroring this invitation is a miniature still life oil painting of succulent fruits and gourds, placed high on the back wall above the buffet. The sweet ripeness of the painted scene is almost tangible - a bottle of wine combined with the overflowing bowls of fruit lends itself to a feeling opulence and abundance. This masterful painting was created by Melissa Wolcott, and is only three inches high by four inches wide. The presence of this painting in the scene reflects the fine tastes of the imagined inhabitants, showing the European influence in this Mexican framework.
The room also shows signs of the religious presence in the home, with artifacts on display as ever-present reminders of the Divine at work. There is a crucifix placed on the right wall near the doorway, and on the buffet is a Tree of Life candelabra, brightly painted in pink, yellow, and blue. Also on the buffet, beneath Wolcott's still-life painting, is a hinged wooden triptych depicting the holy Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, hand-painted in deep reds and metallic golds by Russian artisan Natasha Beshenkovsky. Religious imagery such as this solidifies the concept of a dining room as a sacred space, reminding everyone present to give thanks for the opportunity to come together and be blessed with nourishment.