Crucifix with Archangels

Probably 16th century
Wood, gesso, paint, velvet loincloth and scutum, metal crown. Gilt and carved cross pieces with a stylized flower at the joint. Hair: wig.
The Church at Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico

This kind of display case is common in 16th-century churches in Oaxaca. Known locally as El Señor de la Misericordia, the crucifix is like European Gothic in using blood and wounds to emphasize pathos. The head drops to the right, the knees are slightly bent, and the arms sag from the weight of the dead body. However, the elaborate skirt, shield, and crown hark back to the emphasis on Christ's triumph in Romanesque crucifixes.

The corpus has the dark golden sheen of works that have been in Oaxaca since the 16th century. The musculature and blood are realistic without being excessively detailed. The hair is carved and painted. There is no indication of a significant polychrome loincloth under the velvet one. The loincloth is embroidered in silver thread and decorated with silver ornaments. On the large shield which sticks directly out from the right hip is a beaten silver image of the Agnus Dei. The cross is highly carved in a pattern of vines and flowers in gold on green posts.

Being so similar, the two santos at the foot of the cross might be mistaken for a pair of St. Michaels, with the usual military garb. But the fish identifies the one on the left as Raphael. Indeed, it is even possible that the one on the right is another Raphael, because the latter was sometimes shown with a staff.

The figures of these archangels have been repainted with great care. They are a pair, each head slightly inclined to a central point. The angel on our right has the right arm extended in which it holds a bouquet. The left hand, held away from the body at waist height, holds a staff. The angel on the left of the crucifix holds the flowers in the left hand. The right hand is held away and down. A silver fish has been tied to the wrist.

The garments are silver blue and cream. Each wears a long tunic slit to allow the knees and boots to show, as well as a short tunic with swirling skirts and the full-bottomed sleeves fashionable in the 18th century, decorated in small flowers. Each also has a silver breastplate with a scalloped edge and decorated in swirls and marked by the Dominican symbol of intertwined M's at the neck. Each angel's carved curls are capped by a bowl-shaped silver helmet decorated with red and white real feathers.

In an inner display case in front of the crucifix is a santo of the Christ Child holding an orb.

More of Crosses and crucifixes
More of St. Raphael
More of St. Michael

Photographed at the church by Richard and Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.