Images of Penance, Images of Mercy
Southwestern Santos in the Late Nineteenth Century
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
214 Pages | 9 x 12 | 115 color and 37 b&w illus.
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.