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.

In Santa Ana del Valle:

Christ: Ecce Homo
Crucifix (1)
Crucifix (2)
Crucifix (3)
Crucifixion Group
Holy Family
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Anne (1)
St. Anne (2)
St. Joseph
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)

Other santos not photographed
St. Anne (?)

Saint Anne (?)
Stiffened cloth can be seen where the edge of the cape has broken. The background colors of the polychrome have a repainted look, especially in the blue of the cape, but the gold is clearly genuine and original. The crown is large and elaborate, with glass or gemstones. It is matched by an elegant jewelled band that frames the face to suggest a wimple.

Local Name: Santa Ana

Basis for Identification: Full crown on adult, no crown on child, child on the left hand, rosary hanging from the right. Identifying the statue is somewhat of a problem. The blush on the child's cheeks, the cut of the wig, and the long hair with no crown would be consistent with assuming that it is a child Mary and that the adult is therefore Saint Anne. Perhaps the rosary would not be consistent with such an assumption, though presumably it was added some time after the creation of the statue.

The child has no rosary and holds the fingers of the right hand as if about to form them for the sign of the cross: pinkie and ring finger closing toward palm, thumb bending toward the extended index and middle fingers. This gesture, very much like that of the child in the Teitipac Candelaria, would be consistent with taking the figure to be the Christ child. The way the adult's sculpted hair fans over the shoulders is also suggestive of representations of the Virgin, as is the blue color of the cape.

All things considered, because of the absence of a crown on the child, the treatment of its hair and blush, and the fact that this church is dedicated to St. Anne, we are going to assume that these figures represent Anne and Mary.

Other characteristics: Red and gold robe with blue cape.

Site: Church of Santa Ana del Valle.

Location: In a glass case in the retablo of the altar at southeast corner of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome. Metal crown. Both figures have wigs, painted eyes, no lashes. The adult's garments are stiffened cloth; the child has fabric garments, face of wood, gesso, paint.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: We found no other statues in Oaxaca that would represent Anne and Mary together without the Christ Child. See Santa Ana 1, Santa Ana 2, and Teotitlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Anne in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Anne
Wikipedia: Saint Anne
Christian Iconography: Saint Anne, Mother of the Virgin Mary

Next: Moving left along the south wall of the nave, we find an altar with a grouping of figures of the Holy Family.

Previous santo

Introduction to Santa Ana del Valle

Santos Home Page

Note: On this site, 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 walls of the nave on the north and south. (The nave is the long central section.) Actual orientations may differ.

The photo shown here is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free to share or remix it on two conditions: first, that you attribute it to the photographers, Claire and Richard Stracke, without implying any approval of your work on their part; second, that if you alter, transform, or build upon this photo, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.