Glossary of Hispanic Folk Art Terms

A few definitions of widely-used terms

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Bulto (Traditional) A statue of Christ, a saint or the Virgin carved from cottonwood root, covered with gesso and painted. Sometimes the statue is clothed. Contemporary bultos can be found in bronze and other media. See Santo

Gesso A mixture of gypsum and animal glue applied to the wood of retablos or bultos prior to painting

Hand-adze A traditional means of rough carving retablos with a hand-held, ax-like tool

Reredos An altar screen with architectural frame painted with images of the saints or statues of the saints placed in niches in the facade

Retablo (Traditional) A painting with a religious theme on a flat surface which is usually a pine board or tin. If made of pine, the board is hand-adzed, smoothed in front, covered with gesso and painted. See Santo

Santero/a The "saint-maker"; maker of religious art who carve and paint images of Christ, the Virgin, saints and angels

Santo A religious figure created by a santero. Images commonly represented by NM santeros:

Doña Sebastiana An allegorical figure of death as a skeletal woman with a bow and arrow riding in a cart (la carreta)

El Santo Niño The Christ Child

El Santo Niño de Atocha A seated child in pilgrim's dress (wide-brimmed hat, staff and shoes) usually with a basket containing roses. In New Mexico, associated with the Santuario de Chimayó

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe The Virgin Mary standing in a body halo, supported on an upturned crescent and a winged angel. Based on an apparition of Mary seen by a Mexican peasant

San Francisco de Asís Until the end of the 18th c, Francis' Order of Friars Minor had sole responsibility for New Mexico. Represented wearing a monk's robe with a cowl and knotted cord; bearded and tonsured, often marked with the stigmata on hands, holding a cross and a skull or a book. Frequently pictured with animals

San Isidro Labradór (San Ysidro) A farmer, usually with a broad brimmed hat, accompanied by an angel guiding a plow pulled by two oxen

Santiago A bearded soldier on horseback, with a spear or sword, riding over a field covered with the bodies of Moors

An excellent resource is Santos and Saints: The Religious Folk Art of Hispanic New Mexico by Thomas J Steele, SJ, Ancient City Press remote Santa Fe

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 11

Related Pages

The National Hispanic Cultural Center of NM article
The Pomegranate in New Spain article
Relicarios: Devotional Miniatures article
Traditional New Mexican Hispanic Crafts article
A Tradition of Making Straw into Gold article

Vallero Star Blankets article
500 Years of Encounters article
Hispanic Arts and Crafts Tour of New Mexico article
Three Hispanic New Mexico Metal Traditions article
Straw Art in New Mexico article

Collector’s Resources


Cowboys & Indians Antiques | 505-255-4054
Wright's Indian Art | 505-266-0120

Santa Fe

Chimayo Trading & Mercantile | 505-351-4566
Montez Gallery / Montez + Santa Fe aka Heaven | 505-982-1828
Museum of International Folk Art | 505-476-1145
Oviedo Carvings & Bronze | 505-351-2280
Que Tenga Buena Mano | 505-983-2358
The Rainbow Man | 505-982-8706
Wadle Galleries Ltd pic 128 West Palace Ave | 505-983-9219


Millicent Rogers Museum | 575-758-2462


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