Brazil Anonymous

Untitled (1750)

Polychrome wood
height: 90cm
width: 25cm

On loan from Ruby Reid Thompson


This is typical of the sort of processional sculpture produced in the missions of Spanish and Portuguese America in the 18th century. This piece probably originated in southern Brazil, perhaps in one of the Franciscan missions as it represents St Anthony of Padua, one of the most popular Franciscan saints. Only the head and lower arms are rendered in any detail because when the figure was dressed in its friar's habit nothing else would have been visible. The articulated arms allow the figure to be easily dressed and perhaps arranged in different ways depending on the occasion. The figure is identifiable as St Anthony because of the tonsure, typical of the Franciscans, and because the damage on his right hand indicates that he probably once held a bread roll, one of St Anthony's standard attributes. The gesture of the left hand would have allowed him to hold a lily, another identifying marker. Figures like this were carried around the town on litters during religious festivals; at other times they either occupied a side altar in a parish church or were kept in storage.

Valerie Fraser

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