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.
Our Lady of Sorrows
| Our Lady of Sorrows:
The fingers of the hands interlock in front of the right breast; the upper torso is aimed to the left and the gaze is upward in the tradition of Mary at the foot of the Cross. The eyes are realistically sculpted and painted, not glass. The face is very young, the expression sad. The fingers are polished apparently from repeated touching, as if by petitioners.
This is a beautiful and unusual piece. The pattern of the polychrome is in a tradition other than that usually seen in the churches of Oaxaca. Both mantle and robe are in the same design of very large squared flowers (perhaps a sunflower?) and heavy tracery of stems on a blue-green background. The heart of each flower is a solid, large surface of gold. The border is heavy gold and the mantle is lined in a powdery red. A couple of areas in the folds of the mantle suggest that more than one hand worked on the polychrome and here the petals of the sunflower are more evident. The folds and drape of the clothing suggest that it is sculpted rather than shaped cloth and gesso. There are sharp angles where one expects folds and curves.
The polychrome seems old but in places has a texture different from that of the whole. There is some deterioration at the edges of the mantle as it falls from the head. The polychrome has flaked away from the right shoulder and from the mantle beneath the right arm. At the right shoulder, wood can be seen.
Local Name: La Madre de los Dolores
Basis for Identification: Praying saint; veil with wimple; eyes cast upwards and to the left
Site: Church of Santo
Domingo Díaz Ordaz
Location: South wall of the nave, just past the narthex (see note).
Media and construction: Polychrome.
Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla,
Santa Ana del
Ejutla, Mitla, Nochixtlán,
(in Calvary group), Tlacolula,
Xoxocotlán, Yanhuitlán (?), Zimatlán.
Next: Some other statues
that were not photographed for this study
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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