by Paul R. Spitzzeri
It is a rare occurrence, but, once in a great while, someone will send a donation to the Homestead unawares. One such instance greeted me when I returned to the museum Monday after a vacation.
The box was addressed from suburban Cleveland and, upon opening the well-packed package, a pair of painted and glazed Mexican ceramic tiles were found along with a note from the donor.
Not giving her name other than indicating that she was a granddaughter of the man who originally owned the tiles, the woman stated that she believed the objects were acquired by her grandfather while he lived in Pasadena in the early years of the 20th century. That’s all that was said of the provenance of the artifacts.
Clearly, the donor did an Internet search on the man who signed his work “Pedro Sanchez / Puebla” and found the Homestead, because there are three complete panels of tiles completed by him in La Casa Nueva, completed by the Temple family in 1927.
A fuller post will be forthcoming on Sánchez and his colorful tile work that adorns niches in the Dining Room, Breakfast Room and the bedroom of the eldest child in the family, Thomas W. Temple II. But, the tile artist’s work can be found in other structures in greater Los Angeles, including in an open-air stairway at the county arboretum in Arcadia, a church in Placentia, and a few other locations identified to date.
As to these donations, they may well have been part of a panel or at least a set, given that they show varied poses of a bullfighter and his nemesis. The bullfighter, dressed in a colorful costume of a bright yellow vest, white shirt and green knee-length breeches with yellow striping, is tall, lean, and graceful, with a dancer’s bearing as he uses his red (well, really orange in this rendering) cape to draw the blue-colored bull towards him.
It may not mean anything, but the bull’s face cannot be seen and, for that matter, in the one tile that shows the bullfighter’s mien, there is an eerie lack of detail, almost a facelessness. The same blue color of the bull is used to create the border and provides a lightness that seems to bely the dangerous and serious nature of the act of bullfighting.
Aside from some chipped sections on the bordered edges, there are deep cracks that are not as discernible on the front as on the reverse. Perhaps these tiles were damaged in the process of creation or were at some point dropped or otherwise damaged so as to be unusable. It is notable that the tiles are slightly curved as if for some particular purpose in installation.
Again, more will be posted about Sánchez and his creations utilized in La Casa Nueva and it is great to be able to add these tiles to our artifact collection, especially as their size and portability mean that they can be exhibited in various settings.
Thanks to the anonymous donor for their thoughtful gift to the Homestead!