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Penitente Carved Cedar Death Cart by Albert Martinez

C3799B-death-cart.jpg

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Albert L. Martinez
  • Category: Other Items
  • Origin: Taos Pueblo
  • Medium: cedar wood, rawhide
  • Size: 11-3/4” tall; 11-1/2” wide; 7” deep
  • Item # C3799B
  • Price: $750.00

In the 17th Century, what is now known as New Mexico was considered to be the northern frontier of Mexico. Separated by extreme time and distance, this land was considered to be remote even by 17th Century standards. The church in Mexico basically ignored the northern frontier and as a result the local people developed their own way of celebrating the birth and death of Christ.  A group that is referred to today as the Penitentes took over the task of caring for the spiritual needs of the villages of Nuevo Mexico.

One important aspect of the many duties of the Penitentes was to celebrate the Passion of Christ during Holy Week.  Death carts, with the figure of La Muerte, or Doña Sebastiana, appeared in processions during Holy Week. A member of the Penitente brotherhood would drag the heavy cart from the Morada, or meeting place, to the Calvario, or symbolic Calvary, atop a nearby hill. The carts represented the ever-looming specter of Death and reminded people of the miracle of Christ’s triumph over death. It was also a reminder to the faithful that death is ever-present, and of the importance of leading a virtuous life in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

This small death cart has Doña Sebastiana with hollow eyes and a menacing expression as she threatens the viewers with a rawhide whip and a wooden staff. She sits atop a cart that is carved and put together with pegs. Two large wheels are connected with pegs. 

Historically there has been a close relationship between the Pueblos and their Catholic Spanish neighbors. The creator of this cart is Albert L. Martinez of Taos Pueblo. Martinez is an artist who is known for working in a variety of media, including wood carving. Although the death cart is not typical Pueblo subject matter, it is possible that it was made for a neighbor or as a commission, or just because it was an intriguing image.

 

Condition: original condition

Provenance: from the collection of a gentleman from California who purchased it in the mid-1980s in Santa Fe

Penitente Carved Cedar Death Cart

 

 

Albert L. Martinez
  • Category: Other Items
  • Origin: Taos Pueblo
  • Medium: cedar wood, rawhide
  • Size: 11-3/4” tall; 11-1/2” wide; 7” deep
  • Item # C3799B
  • Price: $750.00

C3799B-death-cart.jpgC3799B-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.