Santos: Enduring Images of Northern New Mexican Village Churches

Marie Romero Cash
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Richly illustrated with examples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art from northern New Mexico's village churches, Santos is an in-depth investigation into the artistic heritage of the New Mexican santero (saint maker). It is also an important study of northern New Mexican artisans and their craft. Along with photographer Jack Parsons, Marie Romero Cash visited every church in the region and documented, identified, and measured each santos. Together they photographed more than 500 pieces, including 19 moradas (places of worship for Penitentes) and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Collection housed at the Museum of International Folk Art. Cash's extensive research into these formerly "anonymous" artisans fills a gap in the study of this unique form, making Santos indispensable for art historians and the general reader interested in the culture and art of the American Southwest.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-117-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Since the colonization of New Mexico, periodic surveys have been made of the contents of the region’s churches. One of the early surveys was that by Bishop Tamaron in 1760. To update information about the existence and condition of religious art in churches of northern New Mexico and related collections, in September of 1987 photographer Jack Parsons and I undertook a photographic survey of the religious folk art and other Spanish Colonial folk arts in the village churches and chapels of northern New Mexico. Initially, the Folk Arts Division of the National Endowment for the Arts funded us, and later...

  5. Chapter One The Colonization of New Mexico
    (pp. 5-8)

    After Columbus’s discovery of the New World, many Spaniards migrated and settled in the Caribbean Islands. Their hope of conquering the mainland of North America, and of gaining its fabled vast riches, led them to travel west with their armies. In 1519, Hernán Cortés sailed from Cuba and landed on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Spurred on by stories of a kingdom nestled in the mountains ruled by an emperor named Montezuma, Cortés’s troops eventually attacked and destroyed the Aztec civilization and rebuilt Mexico City on its ruins. The colony of New Spain, which included Mexico, part of Central America,...

  6. Chapter Two The Art of the Santero
    (pp. 9-24)

    It is not known in which particular area of northern New Mexico the art of the santero began. Although the seventeenth-century churches destroyed during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt may have contained the earliest examples of these wooden, carved and painted images, it is assumed that the images too were destroyed. Perhaps this is not true of the church at Acoma Pueblo. In a 1672 inventory, there are listed “three images in the round … along with three paintings on canvas.”¹ The 1776 Dominguez survey listed only a “completely carved Saint Stephen of rather medium size,” with no notation as to...

  7. Chapter Three The Early Santero and His Role in the Churches
    (pp. 25-88)

    Fray Andres Garcia, a Franciscan friar who served at a number of New Mexican churches in the late eighteenth century, was born in 1720 at Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico. Because of entries in the Dominguez report of 1776,¹ Garcia has been credited with producing several santos that are still in the churches where he served. In addition, he is mentioned in church archives covering the thirty-two years he was stationed at New Mexican churches and missions, always in connection with some work of art, whether it was well received or not during the visitations of 1776 and 1818....

  8. Chapter Four The Classic Golden Age of the Santero
    (pp. 89-138)

    Although as many as ten santeros provided carved and painted images for the various churches beginning in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most of the santos that remain in the churches today were executed by only two santeros: Molleno (because of the number of large altar screens) and Jose Rafael Aragon. Aragon’s working period spanned more than four decades, beginning sometime before 1820. He produced not only large altar screens and carvings for churches but also hundreds of images for private clients. He was extremely versatile as an artist, proficient both in painting panels and carving images, and...

  9. Chapter Five The Late Period of the Santero
    (pp. 139-172)

    Jose de Gracia Gonzales, a santero born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1832, migrated to the United States in 1860.¹ Little was known about Gonzales until recently, when Mark Gardner conducted an extensive search based on information in an unpublished paper written by W. S. Stallings in 1948. In 1989, Gardner searched the Trinidad, Colorado, area for information on Gonzales and his heirs.² When Gonzales migrated to northern New Mexico, he painted primarily in oils, and is the only known santero who made use of stencils and marbleized backgrounds. He included elaborate inscriptions on the lower parts of altar screens he...

  10. Chapter Six Paintings on Hide, Canvas, and Paper
    (pp. 173-178)

    Although early eighteenth-century paintings on tanned hide are discussed at length in Boyd’s Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico, later renderings on gessoed hides by known santeros are of interest in the context of this book. Several santeros painted images on buffalo and other hides, but, unlike the eighteenth-century hide paintings, these hides were prepared much like the retablos, with a thick coating of gesso. This was probably because the unfamiliar texture of the hide made painting difficult for santeros who were used to painting on the smooth, less absorbent surface of gessoed boards.

    One hide in a private collection...

  11. Chapter Seven Santos in the Churches and Collections Today
    (pp. 179-190)

    Although many hundreds of retablos and bultos were listed on the various church inventories before the end of the eighteenth century, and well into the first quarter of the nineteenth century, fewer than one-third of them remain today. At Chimayó, for instance, in addition to the altar screens, the 1818 and 1826 inventories listed thirty-eight bultos “without counting the small ones.” Today, Chimayó has fewer than ten of those bultos. This is true in almost all of the churches in which inventories have been taken, with the exception of Truchas, where the number of images increased by at least fifteen...

  12. Appendix A Art Restoration at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz
    (pp. 191-200)
  13. Appendix B Native Materials and Methods Used by the Santero
    (pp. 201-212)
  14. Appendix C The 1776 Dominguez Survey and the 1987 Santos Survey
    (pp. 213-220)
  15. Appendix D The Confraternities in New Mexico Before and During the Santero Period
    (pp. 221-232)
  16. Appendix E List of Images in the 1987 Santos Survey
    (pp. 233-250)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-256)
  18. Index
    (pp. 257-274)