New World, Spanish Colonial period, ca. 19th century CE. One of my favorite santos! Finely painted in rich jewel tones, an exquisite rendering of a silver winged Archangel Michael in full battle attire, holding a silver repousse shield and a silver sword. He wears conquistador-style armor, complete with a rounded helmet, dashing flowing vestments and boots, both detailed with gold leaf designs, and is posed dynamically atop a pedestal with a delicately painted floral design. Size: 6.25" W x 14.5" H (15.9 cm x 36.8 cm)
This Santo is among the most expertly carved and polychromed examples we have come across. Just look at how the sculptor modeled the flowing vestments and wavy coiffure, truly making fabric and tresses from wood! No less impressive is the movement of the figure that the artist conveys. Furthermore, the gold leafed details are so skillfully painted, applied with a fabulous eye for design.
Santos played an important role in bringing the Catholic Church to the New World with the Spanish colonists. These mannequin-style religious figures were hand-sculpted and often furnished with ornate religious clothing (though this example features such finely delineated, painted, and gilded clothing that there is no need for added vestments), usually funded by religious devotees, and were used as icons to explain the major figures - Mary, Christ, and the saints - in the religion to new, indigenous converts. Likewise, they served as a connection to the Old World for colonists far from home.
Provenance: From the Lilly and Francis Robiscek Collection of Religious Art, Charlotte, NC
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