Molleno, Antonio – American Artist

image courtesy of Skinner Inc.

p4A ItemID A068796

Antonio Molleno (? -1845)

The artist commonly known as Molleno worked as a santero (painter of religious images) in northern New Mexico from about 1804 to 1845. His style of painting started out as Spanish baroque realism to a later abstract personal style. Mollino is representative of the locally trained santero tradition that brought expressive new techniques to their compositions. For example, in a composition that explains the origin of his nickname, the Chili Pepper Painter, two red pepper-like forms flank the figures of San Jose and the Santo Nino, appearing to push them forward in the picture plane. Molleno was commissioned by Bernardo Abeyta to paint the main altar screen at Santuario de Chimayo in 1816, centered around his large crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas, which is in the center niche. This altarpiece does not contain panels of saints, which is the norm, but of religious symbols referring to the Franciscan order. Among his other important works is a large altarscreen at Ranchos de Taos was painted around 1815.

Molleno’s figures are tall and show little concern for detail, both on garments or face. His backgrounds on his retablos were normally painted red but the Santos from his middle and late period, where left white, with the gesso surface exposed. This allowed the figure to stand out.

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