“Santos populares”, wooden sculptures

Museo de Artes Universidad de los Andes

A colonial inheritance in republican Chile

The Museo de Artes of the Universidad de los Andes holds and values ​​the Holtz-Khani Collection that consists of 56 small format wooden carved and polychromed sculptures. The pieces measure between 20 and 40 cm high or up to 78 cm, in the case of crucifixes. These images known in Chile as "santos populares”, were carved throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and even early twentieth centuries by anonymous craftsmen, "santeros", without specialized or academic training. 
Angels and saints
These religious objects -saints or shepherds figures- like this angel with lost wings, were produced in the central zone of Chile and exhibit both Hispanic and indigenous roots, because of a cultural-religious syncretism.

Many representations of these figures, like this female saint, are unidentified because of lack of attributes.

A figure to be dressed: characteristic of this typology is that the polychromy only covers what is necessary, in this case, the head with its carefully painted eyes, and the neck.

The iconographic representations of these figures do not always present exact attributes, which is due to the fact that the "santeros" did not have a rigid artistic formation.

Images of Christ
The set from the Holtz-Khani collection includes crucifixes or figures of Christ with or without His cross. These were lost over the years as well as the loss of heads, crowns of thorns or their arms.

Characteristic in these figures is a rustic carving and the use of thick polychromies. Here, another technique was also applied: by modeling the arms with maguey paste, a plant also known as agave.

These small sculptures were intended to meet a demand of private piety, in houses and small chapels.

The production of this type of figures was abundant from the eighteenth century, however, during the twentieth these pieces were little valued, which led to be eliminated.

This colonial influence lasts throughout the nineteenth century, until the aesthetic religious sensitivity changes to a most polished and classicist one, resulting a refuse toward the "santos populares" and restricted to a peasant religious context, away from the sophistication of the city and the intellectual elite of French or Italian taste.

Museo de Artes Universidad de los Andes
Credits: Story

Museo de Artes Universidad de los Andes
Monseñor Álvaro del Portillo 12455
Las Condes
Santiago 762001
Phone: 56-2-26181152
Mail: museodeartes@uandes.cl
WEB: www.uandes.cl/ma

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