Images of Penance, Images of Mercy: Southwestern Santos in the Late Nineteenth Century

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Overview

In the late nineteenth century Hispanic religious, or santos, made in New Mexico and Colorado were dominated by depictions of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. The predominance of these images can be traced to the growing importance of an organization known today as the brotherhood of Our Father Jesus Nazarene. The Brotherhood is a Catholic confraternity whose members are decided to living a pious Christian life through fervent devotion to the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. Their devotional actives include ceremonial processions each year during Holy Week in which, amidst prayer and the singing of hymns, statues of Christ and the Holy Virgin are carried.

Following the American occupation of 1846, the Brotherhood strongly resisted the process of Americanization by preserving the core values of their Catholic faith—penance and mercy—and the ceremonies that expressed these values. For the ceremonies, the stark, powerful, locally made santos, with their articulated limbs, were preferred over the sentimental commercially made plaster statues introduced by the Americans.

In part 1 of this study, William Wroth traces the origins and growing importance of penitential practices in the early Christian church, through medieval Spain and colonial Mexico, to New Mexico and Colorado. In part 2 a vivid description of the rituals and social functions of the Brotherhood by Marta Weigle is followed by Wroth’s catalog of the expressive and moving santos in the Taylor Museum of Southwestern Studies, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. He provides new information on the artists and their styles, describes particular pieces, and discusses their iconographic sources. Thirty- seven black-and-white and 107 color photographs illustrate the text.

This first systematic study of the late nineteenth-century santos will be welcomed by cultural and art historians and by all readers interested in religious art, Hispanic culture, and the American Southwest.

Published for the Taylor Museum of Southwestern Studied, Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Santos , pictures and sculptures of holy subjects that were made in New Mexico and Colorado, stem from traditions sustained by a Catholic lay confraternity known as the Penitentes. This Hispano-American folk art is characterized by primitive wood sculptures depicting saints, crucifixes, and figures of death. In addition to documenting a collection of santos in the Taylor Museum of Southwest Studies at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, this heavily illustrated work addresses the roles of penance and mercy in the Christian tradition. This well-documented book will be of interest to cultural and art historians and to those interested in religious art, Hispanic culture, and the American Southwest.-- Mary Molinaro, Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington
Booknews
In this systematic study of Hispanic religious images (compiled for the Taylor Museum for Southwestern Studies, Colorado Springs, Colo.), Wroth (formerly a curator at the Museum) traces the origins of penitential practices in the early Christian church through medieval Spain and colonial Mexico to New Mexico and Colorado. The second section (by Martin Weigle) comprises description of the rituals and social functions and a catalog of 107 color photographs and 40 b&w illustrations, with information on the artists and their styles. 91/4x121/4 Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806123264
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1991
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 12.03 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author


William Wroth, a specialist in Hispanic cultural history and art of the Southwest, was curator of the Taylor Museum of Southwestern Studied, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, from 1976 to 7983. His publications include Hispanic Crafts of the Southwest, The Chapel of Our Lady of Talpa, and Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico.
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