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18th C. Spanish Colonial Wood Santo - An Evangelist

Latin America, Mexico, ca. 18th century CE. A breathtaking santo depicting one of the Four Evangelists, either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, donning red, green, and gilded robes and a heavy guage tin halo. He holds his Gospel in his right hand and a quill in his left, the attributes of a writer. This santo is impressively large in scale and finely carved; every cascading fold of his robes and curl of his coiffure is expertly delineated. Size: 10" W x 32" H (25.4 cm x 81.3 cm)

While we know this santo depicts one of the four Evangelists, identifying exactly which one is somewhat difficult because the artist did not present any of the symbols associated with each Apostle; the angel for Matthew, the lion for Mark, the ox for Luke, or the eagle for John. This said, we can probably rule out John, as he is typically shown without a beard being the younger brother of Saint James. The most educated guess would be that this santo represents Matthew, given that he is holding writing implements and is the author of the first Gospel. What the artist did wish to communicate was the Evangelist's pensive state, as his facial expression, with its thoughful eyes and wrinkled forehead, connotes that he is mid-thought or perhaps having an epiphany. Pausing for a moment, his entranced state suggests that the saint is experiencing a vision. Such imagery renditions would have endeared the Church to followers during the Spanish Colonial period.

Condition: Stable age cracks on the back and down torso continuing to the Gospel and wrist where it shows some separation and down the red robe just past the knee. Expected surface wear with craquelure and pigment losses as shown.

Provenance: From the Lilly and Francis Robiscek Collection of Religious Art, Charlotte, NC

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