National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Bulto Bulto
Rendered by Eldora P. Lorenzini (artist), 1938
watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite on paper
overall: 55.9 x 40.2 cm (22 x 15 13/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 11" high; 10 3/4 wide
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Folk Arts of the Spanish Southwest from the Index of American Design
Object 16 of 25

Isidore, the patron saint of farmers and protector of crops, was a farm laborer employed by a wealthy landowner near Madrid in the early twelfth century. According to legend, Isidore spent so many hours in prayer that he was in danger of falling behind with his farming chores. As a reward for his exceptional piety, divine intervention dispatched an angel to help Isidore finish his plowing on schedule. This miraculous event is the subject of an eighteenth-century New Mexican devotional sculpture, or bulto. The most important figure in a bulto's composition was typically represented as the largest, sacred hierarchy triumphing over naturalism. This is why Isidore towers above the angel, who in turn outranks the oxen, surpassing them in scale. Bultos such as this one were placed in both homes and churches to help enlist a saint's intercession on behalf of a prayerful supplicant. This sculpture of Saint Isidore is attributed to a Franciscan friar, Fray Andres Garcia. Unfortunately, the face of Saint Isidore has been repainted at least once or twice, and a conclusive attribution is not possible. The Franciscans established missions in New Mexico, the northern frontier of Spanish America, which was first settled at the end of the sixteenth century.

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