The upper classes—comprising local nobles, landowners, and affluent merchants—of the great capitals of the Viceroyalties, Mexico City and Lima, competed with their counterparts in Madrid and Seville in the ostentatious display of New World riches. In the furnishing of homes and country estates, no expense was spared. Particular attention was given to the decoration of oratories. Small and luxurious tabernacles, often collapsible for easy transport and adorned with religious images, were central to domestic altars.
This 18th-century Mexican tabernacle, inspired by architectural design, resembles a small canopy supported by four slender Solomonic columns. Upon opening its doors, one finds an interior painted with chinoiserie on a vermilion background, imitating the luxurious Asian textiles traded by the Manila Galleon. A pair of mirrors, attached to each of the four door flaps and complemented by their respective gilt shelves and molding, amplified the light from candles placed on the shelves. A full-body image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception completes the ensemble.