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Early 19th C. Mexico Wood St. Anthony of Padua Santo

New World, Spanish Colonial style, Mexico, ca. early 19th century CE. A large wooden santo with a kind face, depicting St. Anthony of Padua. Hand-carved, and with glass eyes, the saint appears to be attentive to the viewer. In one hand, he holds a book with the Christ Child seated atop it; in the other he holds a repousse silver flag - a slightly different depiction than we normally see for St. Anthony, who often holds a lily stalk representing his purity. He stands atop a tall, tiered wooden pedestal. He has a repousse silver halo and Christ has an ornate tin crown. The Christ figure appears to be newer than the saint, but still 19th century. Size: 7.5" L x 8.25" W x 28.25" H (19 cm x 21 cm x 71.8 cm)

The saint's robes are brown, with dark gold-painted details and a brown-painted rope with three knots in the traditional Franciscan style representing poverty, chastity, and obedience. Multiple necklaces have been placed around his neck by worshippers. Christ, meanwhile, has been dressed in real clothing, brightly colored, with a gold-trimmed brown robe and an orange dress trimmed with gold and lace.

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: Fine craquelure, especially on lighter colored paint. Losses to paint and overpainting as shown. Wax in areas used for attaching accessories. Tiny losses to digits.

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

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