Three Bultos

19th century
Wood, gesso, paint
Boggsville Historic Site, Las Animas, New Mexico/Colorado

A bulto is a religious statue carved originally from cottonwood root, then covered with gesso and painted. These three are among the works that Ramalda Luna Boggs collected in the 19th century for the Boggs home in Las Animas, which was then a part of New Mexico but is now in Colorado.

Most items in the collection feature a simple, restrained style with a reduced reliance on traditional European iconography. Here the bulto of St. Christopher on the left reduces the size of the saint's staff and omits the mappa mundi that the child usually carries. For the statue on the left, the artist has followed traditional portraiture of St. Nicholas Factor (full sleeves; a tall, round collar; and tufts of hair surrounding the tonsure), but he has omitted the skull that is that saint's primary attribute.

The Nicholas Factor bulto gestures to the central figure, but it is not clear when or by whom the group was assembled. Considering the gesture and the crosses, one imagines that the central bulto represents Christ. But the clothing is hard to interpret: Is it a sleeved liturgical vestment with a horizontal sash, such as deacons wear? But in the 19th century only seminarians were deacons, and then only for the year preceding ordination.

This image in full resolution
More of St. Christopher
More of St. Nicholas Factor

Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.