The Blanton Museum is reputably known for its Texas themed collections. For many, the most favorable aspects of the museum are the strategic placements of the artifacts, which aid in understanding its historical narratives. The contexts of the artwork not only appeal to those unfamiliar with the historical timeline but with the intentions of the artists. With difficulty in choosing a single artwork, my visual analysis is on the artifact sculpted in the late 18th or early 19th century, Santo, San Antonio de Padau, (St. Anthony of Padau).
The brief description doesn’t provide the accredited artist, but instead indicates the sculpture was anonymously gifted to the museum. Although the sculptor may be unknown, the artist used different aspects of color to enhance the sculptures medium and naturalistic perspective. To clarify, “I couldn’t believe this carving was made out of wood. ” I was impressed how the use of light reflecting on the black and golden brass like paint would give the illusion of a naturalistic sculpture. The artist was capable of exhibiting a real representational interpretation through relief sculpting and careful play with the styles of color.
After investing time in examining the sculpture, I couldn’t help but to generate more questions of what the artist sculpted. From a distance, I was able to deduct a generalized hypothesis from the man’s attire. The iconography appeared to be a religious figure dressed in a catholic robe worn by the medieval friars. As I’m examining the sculpture, I notice an alarming detail that intrigued my initial interpretation of the sculpture. It appears that the sculpture of St. Antonio de Paudau is missing the most common of all Christian symbols, a crucifix.
Exposed to the catholic faith, my curiosity only intensified from the limited knowledge of the medieval friars. Evidently, we are able to gain interpretation of the context and medium from the didactic panel on the wall. The museum informs us the technique and medium used by the artist is called Santos. Santos is a terminology used to describe carvings of wooden statues that often represent religious figures. This religious deity appears to be St. Anthony of Paudau. Interestingly enough, St. Anthony of Paudau is one of the most famous disciples of St.
Francis of Assisi and was considered as a patron saint for lost items. The “saint for lost items” is translated as a patron against oppression, and a fighter against corruption. St. Anthony of Paudau is relevant to Texas, which the city of San Antonio was proudly named after him. The sculpture had initially captivated my interest through analysis of color. The saturation and value boldly identifies itself to the eye of the viewer. Interestingly, the sculptor deterred away from the traditional colors of a friar’s robe — maroon brown, and chose to drape the friar in a more silk-like black.
Amazed by the dated glossy finish, the intensity of the black portrayed striking resemblance to an obsidian rock when reflected by light. The artist used the value through the showcased light combined with saturation to give the illusion of soft movement through the black round carvings of his robe. The belt waist, the trim of the hood, and the outer trim of his elongated draping sleeves were painted a brass like gold. The black robe volumes with the gold trim giving the illusion of St. Anthony’s hood was layered or worn on top of his robe.
Furthermore, it appeared as if strips of gold had been strategically placed on the ends of his rob, identifying clear contrast from his hands and forces the perspective that his sleeves were hanging off his forearms. In addition the dullness of black on the inner part of his robe sleeves interpreted St. Anthony’s arms were three dimensionally coming out of the sleeves. This stimulates the imagination of the artist; one could psychologically imagine if St. Anthony were to drop his arms, the sleeves would naturally follow covering his wrists and hands.
The artist used the relief curves of the wood to force the viewer in aiding the naturalistic sculpture. The sculptor’s medium has encouraged him to carve grooves of his robe enticing movement. This technique of relief sculpting becomes an active part of the composition of his feet. While is left foot is placed forward, his right foot is firmly planted slightly behind. Evidently, St. Anthony has been placed on a flat surface allowing interpretations of walking. Additionally, the lower part of the robe proportionally outlines the location of the knee extenuating that his leg was raised.
Despite the cosmetically missing arm, you can infer both arms were slight raised by the natural curves of his sleeves. His one palm facing the sky signifies an embracing body language or religious praise. His facial expression holds a slight smirk, followed by his kind eyes gazing forward, leaving the viewer to interpret St. Anthony’s hostility or snapshot of him welcoming a friend. In opposition of a Spartan warrior, the extreme simplicity of his round face, his bowl haircut, small chin and narrow slouched shoulders expresses a calm and composed demeanor. Many friars are always depicted as men of selflessness, and uninterested in self-image.
The notion of extreme simplicity in the general facial properties and the composition of his body language help determine the subject matter, which can be a direct comparison to a common medieval friar. In conclusion, I was most astonished by the proportional sculpting of his body. The intense vivid saturation of his robe illuminated the sculpture, which complimented the representational perspective. The relief curves served a role in accomplishing a sense of movement. Even though we were able to conclude the subject matter, the mystery of the missing crucifix entices my curiosity.