Monday, June 26, 2023

Chiapas. Two equestrian statues

The focus in our second post on Chiapas is on two related equestrian statues of colonial origin in the city of San Cristóbal.

The first is a virile of Santiago Matamoros now located in the city museum of Los Altos, adjacent to the church of Santo Domingo.

The saint is seated on a horse whose front hooves are elevated—possibly originally part of a larger tableau. The helmeted figure of Santiago is in his usual militant pose with sword upraised. 

His costume as well as the saddle and saddle cloth are painted and richly finished in estofado style.

There is no definite date for the statue but the pose and the horse especially is fashioned in a folkloric style, which suggests the 17th or early 18th century.

The second figure, known as El Señor del Sótano, is sometimes mistaken for Santiago. He also brandishes a sword, but in fact represents St Martin, shown in the act of dividing his cloak with a naked beggar. The pose is more sophisticated than that of the Santiago statue: in the gestures of the saint, his headwear, the folds of his costume and even the turned head of the horse. 

 The decorative finish is also simpler, although the costuming is more realistic and brightly colored in reds and blues. Again no date is indicated although the ensemble suggest the later 18th century.

San Martín is located in a side chapel of the church of La Caridad, the former resting place of the Santiago figure.

text and graphic © 1993 & 2023 Richard D. Perry

photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

consult our illustrated travel guide to colonial Chiapas

Friday, June 9, 2023

Chiapas. San Cristobal: La Merced

We have not posted frequently on Chiapas on this blog. But we have two new posts on this remote southern state.

The first looks at the church of La Merced in the city of San Cristóbal and the second on a pair of colonial statues also in this city.

Mercedarian friars came to Chiapas with the conquistadors and ministered principally to the Spanish residents of colonial Ciudad Real (San Cristóbal de Las Casas as it then was) rather than to the indigenous Maya of the barrios. 
Although little visited today, the old monastery of La Merced, located just outside El Recinto (the old city center), west of the main plaza, was the first to be established in the city. 
Faced by a long, elevated forecourt, the imposing church was almost entirely rebuilt early in the 20th century, from its colonnaded "wedding-cake" front to its brittle neoclassical interior. 
The only surviving colonial remnant is the 18th century sacristy, whose archway and massive supporting pillar are decorated in colorful folkloric style. 
Sprouting from the fanciful rampant lion reliefs at its base, rising tendrils of painted foliage entwine the pillar. 
On the underside of the arches, bands of classically-inspired grotesque ornament, incorporating sirens and stylized masks with fan-like feather headdresses, curve upwards to meet bas-reliefs of the sun and moon. 
sun;                               moon detail

An inscription, dated 1757, is incorporated in the floral frieze above the arch, and in the spandrels, the Hapsburg imperial eagle almost disappears in a profusion of foliage and flowers.
Imperial two headed eagle

text © 1993/2023 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Nick Brooker
and online sources