New World, Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. 18th century CE. A relatively rare hand-carved, finely painted, and gilded wooden Santo depicting one of the angels God assigned to guard the Tree of Life after he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Her figure is draped in golden robes; finely cut, modeled in repousse, and detailed with incised feathers gilt tin wings are attached to her back and golden rays emanate from her hands. A worshipper placed a gold/silver tone crucifix on angel to venerate her. Size: 8" L x 12" W x 20.5" H (20.3 cm x 30.5 cm x 52.1 cm)
Representing the Garden of Eden, she alights upon a mound inhabited by the symbolic serpent and apple, and two additional cherubim created and placed by God in the Garden appear in the clouds below. Complementing the Santo is a multi-tiered pedestal, its classicized style characteristic of the Spanish Baroque. In the story of the Expulsion, God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden lest they eat from the Tree of Life and gain immortality. To guard the tree, "to the east of the Garden of Eden he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and flashing." The santero of this santo captured this reference in the iconography.
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. 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. Oftentimes regarded as quite valuable and expensive, the creation of Santos was usually funded by religious devotees.
Provenance: ex-Francis & Lilly Robicsek Collection, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
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Wings show expected tarnish and minor bending. Some losses to billowing clouds surrounding cherubim and back of earthmound inhabited by serpent. Old nails attaching wings are still present, but new screws added later to secure. Expected surface wear commensurate with age, with losses to pigment and gold leaf and tiny nick to left sleeve. The flat back of her head with traces of wax suggests a former attachment. Wear, age cracks, and losses to pedestal as shown. Crucifix chain missing catch.