17th C. Spanish Colonial Santo with Articulated Arms

Sir Raffles Art & History is Charles Mandel’s collection of antique Santos and ethnographic collectibles, mostly carved wood. See current selection on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SirRafflesArtHistory

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General: Antique Santos figure of a Jesuit.

Condition: Please see the photos. 11″ in height. White stone eyes and articulated arms. Missing right hand. Red, white and blue pigment.

Comments: This is an excellent example of the type of santos carving that I most admire. The intention of the artist was based in pure devotion and love of God. The carving itself is very well done; the face in particular is pleasing. Lacking the glass eyes that are often a part of santos carving, the artist used two white stones. I imagine that they once had pupils painted on them.

The Jesuits first came to Brazil around 1609 and over time developed a series of missions in what is now Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay. They were well respected by the indigenous people as the order strongly advocated against the Spanish and Portuguese institutions of slavery and native exploitation. Indeed, an arrangement was made where the Jesuits were given near complete control over an area with the understanding that they would forward a certain amount of tribute to Spain. To this end the Jesuits and their charges developed highly successful cities without resorting to slavery, violence or inordinate domination. They were so successful, in fact, that King Carlos III eventually ordered the missions destroyed.

I can’t help wonder whether this carving represents a specific Jesuit priest, someone that the carver perhaps knew and admired. Perhaps the subject was a teacher or confessor to the artist. The carving was likely done around 1660-1690, just as those beautiful cities were in full blossom.

Whatever the culture, there can be no more important art than that used as an aid for communicating with the divine. I have always found devotional artifacts fascinating to collect; there is no better way to connect with a past culture than through the objects that were important to it. Collecting santos figures is particularly gratifying. The subject, the style and the methods of production combine to tell the tale of what the individuals in that culture valued.


I have been collecting artifacts and religious objects for many years, specializing in Asian and European vintage carvings. Don’t hesitate to ask about other stock that I might have that is not listed here.

Website: http://sirraffles.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SirRafflesArt


Materials: wood,polychrome

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