Oxen Bulto
ca. 1790
7.5" x 11.5" x 7.5"
Bultos, wood, gesso, watercolor
Region: New Mexico

About the Artist
During the latter part of the Laguna Santero's working period, other altar screen were under construction in the norther churches by santero known only as Molleno. Molleno, whose early works are reminiscent of those by the Laguna Santero, worked in bright reds, yellows, blacks, and blues, sometimes limiting his palette to only two colors in addition to the write of the gesso. His distinctive brushwork, large strokes with feathered detail, is recognizable on both his panels and his carvings.

In 1948, E. Boyde discovered the name "Molleno" on an inscription on the reverse side of a small retablo: a pine panel with a painting of San Francisco de Asis in Molleno's style that bore the notation "San Francisco pintado en el ano 1845 por el escultor Molleno." (St. Francis, painted in the year 1845 by the sculptor Molleno." Although no archival references have been discovered to provide additional information on the santero's identity and the extent of his works, he appears to have been very prolific, painting massive altar screen as well as many small panels. His works are original and reflect the ability to generate images without meticulously following the standard prototypes used by earlier santeros.

In the early 1800s, at the church of San Francisco de Asis at Ranchos de Taos, Molleno constructed and painted two large altar screens; although they are now heavily restored, both are still in the church. In an 1817 inventory, the mail altar is described as consisting of imported oil paintings on canvas arranged and framed within a locally constructed and painted screen. The paintings are surrounded by geometric and floral motifs set off by bold bars of bright color.

Private and museum collections contain numerous examples from Molleno's long working period. There are many unusual subjects in his repertoire, such as those incorporated into Ranchos de Taos altar screen. Despite the numerous works created by this santero, Molleno's true identify remains a mystery. To pin down his actual working dates, we refer to data obtain in dendrochronological studies conducted by W.W. Stallings on the works of this santero from various sources. Stallings's studies indicate that out of forty panels tested, the average date range fro the group would be 1800 to 1830 as the earliest and latest possible dates. He took into consideration the fact that santeros frequently used old wood.