Santos in Oaxaca's Ancient Churches
A study of santos in 16th-century and other churches in Oaxaca, Mexico
By Claire and Richard Stracke
Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
St. Peter the Apostle
| St. Peter the Apostle:
The statue is the product of mixed talents. The head and hands are powerful, delicate and individualized, but the body has a folk roughness and lack of proportion. The face is believable as that of a fisherman become Pope, with weathered cheeks and piercing eyes. The hands are long, well-sculpted and the wrists are powerful. Though the dimensions of the upper body are proportional to the head and hands, the simplicity of their execution is in a very different style that suggests that the body was newly made for a set of older extremities. As in more sophisticated works, white paint over light gesso at neck and sleeve is probably intended to hide the joining of head and hands to the body.
In contrast to the skilled work of the head and hands, the body of the santo suggests a folk artist and the deeply carved blue robe and brown mantle reflect a humble vision. The lower body is squat and thick and gives the saint the appearance of a dwarf. The body and cape are carved of one block of wood. The brown "rope" belt is carved as one piece with the rest. The v-neck of the robe is edged in gold paint as are the edges of the sleeves, hem and mantle.
The golden halo is a flat, carved disk decorated with stylized fluting. A large, rough wooden key is tied to the right hand, and a carved book to the left. A large silver coin is tied to the left hand in a complicated ar-rangement of threads. The two middle fingers are missing from the right hand and the left hand lacks the pinky and index fingers.
Local Name: San Pedro Apóstol
Basis for Identification: Balding saint with book, keys.
Other characteristics: Gray beard, simple robe.
Site: Church of Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz.
Location: On the altar along the north wall of the nave, just past the narthex (see note).
Media and construction: Wood,
gesso, paint. Glass eyes, carved halo.
Size: About 30 inches tall (76 cm.), on a two-inch (5 cm.) wooden slab that roughly outlines the saint's feet.
Next: A statue of the Trinity
references to the cardinal directions always assume
that the main altar is at the east end of the church,
the narthex or entry area at the west end, and the two
of the nave on the
north and south. (The
nave is the long central section.)
Actual orientations may differ.
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photographers, Claire and Richard Stracke, without
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