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19th C. Mexican Painted Wood Santo - Virgin Mary

New World, Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. 19th century CE. A sweet-faced, hand-carved wood santo depicting Mary in flowing gold and cream dress with a blue and pink cloak decorated with gold stars. She has blue eyes and flowing brown hair and holds a tin crown in one hand and a tin stalk topped by roses in the other. Size: 4.75" L x 5.5" W x 18.5" H (12.1 cm x 14 cm x 47 cm)

Marian worship was hugely important in nineteenth century Mexico, and depicting her with her blue robes - a sign of her purity, relating to the blue of the sky - calls to mind the Virgin of Guadalupe, who came as a vision before Juan Diego in 1531 and whose worship helped Mexicans make sense of the Spanish Conquest and the Spanish repression of the Aztec religion. She is the most popular Catholic symbol in Mexico. The roses this figure holds further emphasize her connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is famous for appearing in one of Diego's visions with roses in the middle of the winter.

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. They became a folk art tradition in the Spanish New World, from modern day Guatemala to as far north as New Mexico and Colorado. 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.

Condition: Some losses to paint and overpainting as shown. Wax in areas used for attaching accessories. Base has been repaired in two places and one arm may also have been reattached.

Provenance: Ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, NC

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