San Ysidro Labrador
Object Place: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Overall: 43.2 x 29.2 x 57.2 cm (17 x 11 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Painted and carved wood
Not On View
Santos (devotional images of saints made for Catholic churches and homes) are one of the oldest living traditions in Hispanic American art. They have been fashioned in three principal forms: bultos (painted wood sculptures, as here), retablos (painted wood panels), and ex-votos (painted images on tin-plated sheets of iron). Examples were imported into New Mexico from Spain and Mexico before 1600, and by the eighteenth century bultos and retablos were also produced there by local santeros, who developed a distinctive New Mexican style. That tradition has been maintained into the twenty-first century by a vibrant community of New Mexico artists that continues to create not only colorful santos, but furniture, textiles, paintings, tinwork, straw appliqué, and other objects in the Spanish colonial mode as well.
This image of the patron saint of farmers, San Ysidro Labradór (or Saint Isidore the Farmer, or the Laborer), was carved by furniture maker and santero Raymond López of Sante Fe. His work was first exhibited in 1993 at Spanish Market, a longstanding annual festival held in Sante Fe and sponsored by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. A number of stories and legends concern Ysidro, a Spanish farmer who died in 1130. In one, as depicted here, an angel is helping him with his plowing. In another story, he is said to have caused a fountain of fresh water to spring from the ground to assuage his master’s thirst. Such a miraculous talent made San Ysidro a particularly meaningful image to residents of perpetually arid New Mexico.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
Gift of James and Margie Krebs