New World, Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. 19th century CE. A standing wood santo depicting St. Rita of Cascia, with wear to her forehead stigmata, presumably from worshippers repeatedly touching it. She stands with one hand raised to her chest, a compassionate look on her well-painted face, and wearing a repousse silver halo. Her habit is well-carved, with realistic folds. Size: 4.75" L x 5.75" W x 17" H (12.1 cm x 14.6 cm x 43.2 cm)
Rita of Cascia (1381 to 1457) was a widow and Augustinian nun canonized in 1900. Her marriage was abusive, but she maintained her Christian faith throughout and became a nun shortly after her husband's death. She is the patroness of those suffering from domestic violence. As here, she is often depicted with partial stigmata - only on the forehead - and wearing the brown robes of her Order.
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.
Provenance: Ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, NC
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