18th Century Early Santos Hand Carved Wooden Sculpture of Jesus
Antique early latin polychrome hand carved wood sculpture of Jesus | Hand carved and painted santos figure of Jesus, depicted with green, red and yellow robes
Beautiful Early 18th Century latin polychrome hand carved wood sculpture of Jesus | Hand carved and painted santos figure of Jesus, depicted with green, red and yellow robes | Very good example of early santos craftsmanship with nice patina | Statue measures approximately 13.5″ tall | Good condition considering age and use, missing hands, age related craquelure on head of figure.
A santo (English: ‘saint’) is a piece of one of various religious art forms found in Spain and areas that were colonies of the Kingdom of Spain, consisting of wooden or ivory statues that depict various saints, angels, or Marian titles, or one of the personages of the Holy Trinity. A santero (female: santera) is a craftsperson who makes the image. Some santos which have gained greater public devotion among the faithful have also merited papal approval through canonical coronations. Santos remain a living tradition of religious iconography and folk art in Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and some other Caribbean islands, South and Central America, and the Southwestern United States, especially New Mexico.
Icons and other religious images were crucial for the conversions of indigenous peoples to Roman Catholic Church, which was itself an integral part of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. However, long distances, inefficient methods of transportation, and high demand for such artworks limited the ability of ecclesiastical authorities to supply parish churches, especially those in remote outposts, with works of religious art from the Kingdom of Spain.
The practice of creating santos began in Spain, where mannequin-style religious images were commonly vested in ornate religious clothing, often expensive and funded by religious devotees. An early known example is the 1555 statue of Infant Jesus of Prague, already vested during the time of Saint Teresa of Avila. Customarily, jewels are various accessories were also added onto larger santos, a tradition still carried on today. While larger pieces are typically used in churches, many smaller ones are personal or family items of reverence, or kept as decorations. Santos are also common throughout Latin America, the Spanish Caribbean, and the Southwestern United States, as well as the Philippines, with distinct styles and traditions in each area.
Santo statues and statuettes, carved in the round, are commonly known as revultos or informally as bultos. They are usually made of wood. Larger scenic pieces, including multiple statues or done in bas relief, or simply painted on wood panels, and which may include non-figural iconography, are called retablos, originally altar backboards or screens, though today often adapted to secular artistic purposes in the Chicano art movement (for more information, see Retablo).
Among bultos, two distinct types are often noted, the bastidor (‘frame’, ‘structure’) style, a mannequin intended to be dressed with clothing and accessories, and the detallado (‘detailed’) style, with adornments painted on permanently (though sometimes also featuring added items). Bastidores often have interchangeable or posable arms, and sometimes feature a cage-like lattice (thus the name) to hold and shape the vestments.
Ivory was often cited as the best and most expensive material for carving santos. Elephant ivory, especially of African origin, has been restricted or banned from sale, distribution, or commercialization in Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, and many other countries. While exact laws vary by jurisdiction (from total bans to legal sale of antiques only), ivory is now rarely used. While the most economical modern type of santos are made of resin or fiberglass, and mass-produced, traditional examples are still made primarily of wood, sometimes with metal accessories.