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18th C. Mexican Polychrome Wood Santo - Rose of Lima

New World, Mexico, ca. 18th century CE. Grand in scale, a skillfully carved and finely painted wood santo of Rose of Lima, the primary patroness of Peru who holds the distinction of being the first in the New World to be canonized. She is usually depicted wearing a Dominican habit and a crown of thorns or roses as we see here. She carries one of her chief attributes, and anchor, as well as a house as she provided shelter, stability, and care for the needy throughout her life. Size: 8.5" L x 10.25" W x 23" H (21.6 cm x 26 cm x 58.4 cm)

Born Isabel Flores de Oliva in Lima in 1568, Rose of Lima lived her 31 years in voluntary penance and prayer, caring for the needy and living a life of extreme asceticism. Her nickname "Rose" arose from an incident when she was a baby - a servant claimed to see her face transform into a beautiful rose. She was confirmed by the Archbishop of Lima in 1597; this same Archbishop Tiribio de Mogrovejo later declared her a saint, and it was at this time that she formally took the name Rose. As a young girl she was admired for her beauty, but cut off her hair and smeared her face with pepper so that potential suitors would lose interest as she was more interested in tending to the needy. In emulation of St. Catherine of Siena, she took to daily fasting, and helped the hungry and the sick in her community by bringing them to her room (the house she holds may be a reference to this shelter) to take care of them. To care for the poor, Rose made and sold lace and embroidery. Rose also sold her needlework and flowers that she grew to help her family. For these reasons, Rose of Lima is the patron saint of embroiderers, gardeners, and florists.

Santos played an important role in bringing the Catholic Church to the New World with the Spanish colonists. These religious figures were hand-carved and often furnished with crowns, jewels, and other accessories, usually funded by religious devotees, and were used as icons to explain the major figures - Mary, Christ, and the saints - to new, indigenous converts. Likewise, they served as a connection to the Old World for Spanish colonists far from home. Many of them were lovingly cared for over the years, with repairs and paint added as they aged, and played an active part for a long time in the religious life of their communities. Oftentimes regarded as quite valuable and expensive, the creation of Santos was usually funded by religious devotees.

Condition: Surface wear with minor losses to pigment and gold leaf. Minor losses to peripheries of base. Stable crack to robes beneath the house St. Rose holds. Hole atop her head suggests there was once another attachment.

Provenance: private Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

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