Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tochimilco: St. Francis returns

As a follow up to our earlier posts* on Tochimilco we reprise the story of the St Francis relief:
In September 2006, three years after it was stolen from the church at Tochimilco, the U.S. ambassador formally returned a 400-year-old polychrome wooden relief sculpture to Mexico. Thieves had tried to sell it in the United States at a Santa Fe, N.M., art gallery for $255, 000. 
  This large, painted wooden relief, now cleaned and restored, depicts St. Francis receiving the Stigmata on September 14, 1224. Originally the centerpiece of a larger altarpiece, it measures 92 inches high by 69 inches wide and is believed to have been carved between 1575 and the early 1600s. 
In a classic representation of this seminal event in the life of the saint, Francis kneels on a rock at the foot of Mt. LaVerna in Tuscany, here realistically portrayed with trees and a running mountain stream. Although his feet are hidden, the open hands of the richly robed saint clearly depict two of Christ's five wounds. The wound on his side is less clear.
Francis gazes up intensely to the six winged, crucified seraph in the clouds on the upper right, although the heavenly rays usually emanating from the seraph to the five wounds are not shown in this relief version.
Brother Leo, Francis' companion, stares expressionless in the corner, seemingly oblivious to the miracle unfolding above him.
   In our view, this beautifully realized work of art is the finest of only a tiny handful of colonial reliefs portraying this event. 
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images of the relief © Felipe Falc√≥n
*see our previous posts on Tochimilco: The Open Chapel; The Fountain; The Murals

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