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19th C. Mexican Polychrome Wood Santo - Saint Blaise

New World, Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. 19th century CE. A hand-carved, painted wood Santo of San Blas, a saint born in Armenia and devoted to a life in medicine until his election to the episcopal diocese of Sebaste. He then withdrew to a cave on Mt Argeus to cure sick people and animals who came to be healed and blessed. The santero depicted him in his traditional manner, dressed as a bishop w/ a silver handled crosier incised with stars accompanied by sheep, alluding to his secluded life in the woods. Size: 9.5" L x 13" W x 34.25" H (24.1 cm x 33 cm x 87 cm)

Christians were persecuted by Agricola, governor of Cappadocia, during the reign of Emperor Licinius. San Blas was discovered during this time when hunters searching for wild beasts for arena games found a group of tigers, lions, and wolves at the mouth of his cave. Saint Blaise was soon arrested and given opportunities to renounce his religious beliefs, but being devout, he consistently refused. After enduring a grueling torture treatment, Blaise was tossed into a lake, but he proceeded to walk on water. He invited his tormenters to follow suit, but the pagans failed and drowned. Most sources agree that he was martyred by having his flesh ripped off with wool combs; hence, his red blood-covered hands in this depiction. Saint Blaise is thus the patron saint of wool combers as well as the patron saint of physicians and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

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: Age crack from neck down to integral base as shown. Expected surface wear with nicks, losses to pigment, and gold leaf. Silver handle of crosier shows expected tarnish. Animals are not attached to pedestal.

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

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