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19th C. Mexican Wooden Santo - St. Anthony of Padua

New World, Mexico, Spanish Colonial Period, ca. 19th century CE. A large wooden santo with a kind face, hand-carved from hard wood, depicting Saint Anthony of Padua. He stands with bare feet and wearing a brown and gold robe atop a rectangular plinth while holding the Christ child in his left arm and holding his right arm out. He has a sensitive visage comprised of painted almond-shaped eyes with stylized pupils and lashes, a petite nose, semicircular ears, and thin lips, all beneath a tonsure hairstyle. A small perforation atop his head holds a small pin atop which is a halo decorated with colorful concentric circles. The Christ child sits with both arms outstretched, and wears a magenta-hued robe. Size: 5.75" W x 15.5" H (14.6 cm x 39.4 cm).

St. Anthony was a Portuguese Franciscan priest and friar who died in Padua, Italy. Despite being born into a wealthy family, he was known for his intense devotion to the poor and sick, and holds the distinction of being canonized most quickly of all the saints. He is also known as the patron saint of lost things - objects, people, and souls. In art, he is often depicted with a book and the infant Jesus, based on a commonly told story of him reading a book and seeing the Christ Child's image in it.

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: Right hand reattached at wrist with light adhesive residue along wrist line. Repair to front of nose. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, small losses to feet, head, base, front of robes, and part of halo, with fading and chipping to areas of pigmentation, and minor inactive insect damage. Light earthen deposits throughout.

Provenance: private California, USA collection

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