Large Early 19th c. Polychromed Mexican Hand Carved Wooden Santo c.1820



A large early 19th century poly-chromed, hand carved wooden Mexican Santo holding a book. A lustrous finish envelops his face, arms, legs and feet, causing his flesh to gleam in the light while blue paints cover the areas where he was possibly clothed at one time. Glass eyes and thick, carved hair. Carved wooden stand with support bar attached in the back. The articulating arms are hinged and bend at the shoulder and elbow for many different positions.

Shown with life size hand model.

  • CREATOR Unknown. Mexico.
  • MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES Carved, Painted Wood.
  • CONDITION Good. Wear consistent with age and use. Missing piece above book. Chip under left eye. Chipping paint throughout. Repair to left foot. Structurally sound.
  • DIMENSIONS H 36 in. W 10.5 in. D 10 in.


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.

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