Antonio Molleno, Altar Screen, about 1825. Paint and gesso on wood panel; 77 × 43½ in. Gift of Anne Evans Collection, 1936.16.
overall height: 77 in, 195.5800 cm; mount width: 43.5 in, 110.4900 cm
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
When Spanish settlers arrived in the southwestern United States at the end of the 1500s, they brought with them paintings and sculptures of Catholic saints for their churches and homes. Soon afterward a local tradition of making such images developed.
Spanish devotional artists (santeros) learned from local Pueblo Indians how to make paints from native plants and minerals. They combined these homemade paints with oil paints imported from Mexico to make images of religious figures known as bultos (sculptures) and retablos (paintings on wood panels). Both are still made in the area today.
The New Mexican artist known as Molleno is referred to as a santero—an artist who creates santos, devotional images that played an important role in church, community, and family rituals. The figures were combined to create large altarscreens, generally placed behind the altar or along the walls of the church.
The painted wooden panels within the frame, called retablos, depict images of Catholic saints, the Christ Child (as seen in the center of the top row in the arms of Saint Joseph), and the Virgin Mary (as seen in the right side of the bottom row). The empty niche on the bottom row probably held a sculpture of a saint, called a bulto. The religious figures portrayed here would have been familiar to the church-going population in New Mexico in the 1820s.
-- Donna Pierce, 2015
Gifted 10 January 1936 by Anne Evans to the Denver Art Museum. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.
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