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The Lady of Sorrows
The images show a detail of a santos (statue) of the Lady of Sorrows. This particular statue was made from painted paper maché formed around a wooden frame with a earthenware head and dressed in miniature clothes. In infrared a repair made with a Spanish newspaper can be detected on the paper maché. Repairs to santos were often necessary since these religious statues were carried around once a year in processions.
15 – 16 September, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores/Our Lady of Sorrows
Since 1814, this feast day recalls the sorrows experienced by Mary in her association with Christ: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the three-day separation from Jesus, and four incidents connected with the Passion. Represented in a somber mantle, usually dark blue, with a dagger piercing her heart. There are forty-seven churches in New Mexico named for her. This is the second most frequent image used in devotional art in New Mexico; over 6% of all known Santos are of her image.
Four hundred years ago, the Spanish came to the New World and brought significant changes. One of the most lasting changes was their faith, Catholicism. Santos (painted and carved images of saints) have lived in the homes of Hispanic New Mexican as well as Native American families for hundreds of years. The missionary priests needed "visual aids" to help explain the stories of the saints and the Passion of Christ to the native peoples and used printed images from Spain. At first, some statues were brought from Spain and Mexico but the responsibility for making santos was handled by Franciscan friars and then by local craftspersons and artists, many of whom set up schools or escuelitas. Gradually santeros, the artists who made the images of saints, began to carve and paint the popular saints to supply New Mexican churches, homes, and moradas (village worship space for the Penitente Brotherhood). The santos were made either two dimensionally (retablos), or three dimensionally (bultos).
The stories and images of the saints differed from those seen in Europe. We attribute that to limited contact with the source material and word of mouth spreading the stories, gradually changing some of the facts along the way. The isolation of the New Mexico villages made visits by priests rare occurances and necessitated the use of lay clergy to keep the faith alive. Village processions and celebrations centered around the treasured santos that were on display in the church and morada.