Santo Niño Santero

A number of the 18th and 19th century New Mexican Santeros carved crucifixes, but none so exquisitely as the Santo Niño Santero. The Santo Niño Santero was so named by E. Boyd, the well-known curator of the Museum of International Folk Art through the 1970s, based on several small identical carvings of the Niño in their collection. His carvings are detailed and exquisite, with finely carved and painted features. Research indicates that he practiced his craft from 1830-1860, although he still remains anonymous to this date.

This carving of the Cristo Crucificado is “Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas”, because the branches that are offshoots from the main cross represent the “living cross”. The legend of Esquipulas is based on a revered Guatemalan image of the Black Christ, to which many miracles were attributed. It can be conjectured that sometime in the 1700s the legend was brought to the Santuario de Chimayo, as this historical church is also based on the healing powers of Christ. The original chapel in the village was called Our Lord of Esquipulas before it was replaced by the present building, which has become a revered destination for travelers.

The carved Cristo is probably from cottonwood covered with a layer of gesso and painted with natural pigments. It has all the earmarks of the exceptional work by this Santero. The fingers are delicately carved and still intact, as are the wounds on the knees. Classic to the piece is the “pouf” on the side of the hip, the santero’s idea of the excess cloth represented in early paintings. The original crown of thorns made from hide and wood is still intact. This rare, exquisite piece is in excellent condition for its age.