(Spanish, late 17th–early 18th century)
late 17th–early 18th century
Polychromed wood and ivory
28 x 14 x 12 1/4 in. (71.1 x 35.6 x 31.1 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase, Meadows Museum Acquisition Fund, MM.89.07
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Although this charming sculpture recalls the numerous votive figures of Saint Anthony so ubiquitous in seventeenth-century Spain, its dynamic, interactive composition endows the work with a strikingly narrative quality. It probably was intended to evoke the legendary vision of Saint Anthony, whose religious meditations one day were rewarded by a vision of the Christ child. The young saint’s attitude of delighted surprise, lips parted and head cocked, suggests that the infant has only just materialized in his arms, interrupting his energetic, forward stride.
Small, sculpted figures of individual saints became popular in southern Spain, particularly in Granada, during the latter half of the seventeenth century. These often served as objects for private devotion, a role for which the joyous, intimate character of this work is particularly well suited.