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The largest island in the Caribbean Sea, with over five hundred years of written history, Cuba has the oldest colonial heritage in the Western Hemisphere. This spectacularly-illustrated volume transports readers to the well-appointed domestic life of Spanish colonial settlers during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. From traditional furniture forms to the preserved interiors of private homes and cathedrals, Cuba’s rich cultural legacy comes alive in the pages of this unprecedented documentary.

As the stepping stone for traders delivering goods to Spain from the Far East via Mexico,
colonial Cuba prospered as a major port. International trade, combined with gold and agricultural exports,

developed a wealthy class of citizenry in need of fine interiors. The island's cultural essence, or Cubanidad, survives in a diverse array of furniture that the author explores in four chapters, each covering a century of colonial rule.

Thousands of exquisite pieces still exist from the over four hundred years since Columbus claimed the isle for Spain. Local craftsmen, many of whom originated from Spain’s southern province of Andalusia, were influenced by myriad styles—from mid-sixteenth-century Spanish examples inspired by Arabian design to
mid-eighteenth-century Georgian forms created during England’s brief rule of the island under the 1762 Treaty of Paris.

One of the intriguing points that Connors argues involves the eighteenth-century Cuban-made mahogany sacristy chest, often the pièce de résistance in a plantation home. Contrary to previous research, the author contends that this form predates, and likely influenced, the creation of North American block-front chests.

Michael Connors’ enticing new book provides a rare look at the luxurious side of colonial Cuba

Michael Connors, Cuban Elegance (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004). Photography by Bruce Buck. Available in bookstores nationwide in April.

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