Hide Painting of St. Anthony, c. Early 1700s

Hide Painting of St. Anthony, c. Early 1700s

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Dating to the early 18th century, this animal skin was painted with an image of St. Anthony in what is now New Mexico. St. Anthony is often represented as a Franciscan friar in a brown robe holding a child and a lily. The banner under his feet supports this identification. The Roman Catholic religious order of the Franciscans arrived in the region with the Spaniards in the 17th century. The group, known as friars, played an important role in the history of Mexico up through the mid-19th century when their numbers dwindled and were eventually replaced by secular or diocesan priests. Due to their European painting styles, scholars previously believed that hides of this type were painted by Franciscans. Scholars now believe that Native Americans painted them after learning and adopting the style from the Spanish and other Europeans arriving in the area. Taking over the missions subsequent to the Franciscan departure, diocesan ecclesiastical authorities did not approve of the religious images known as santeros including the hide paintings and many were removed from the churches during the last half of the 19th century. This hide came from the Santo Domingo Mission Church in New Mexico where it was found by Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850-1930) while working for the U.S. National Museum Bureau of Ethnology in 1897. At that time, the mid-18th century church building was in ruins due to a series of floods with the final destruction in 1885 by the Rio Grande. The church door and paintings presumably including this hide were removed by the people of Santo Domingo prior to the flooding. This hide painting is a testament to the ability of the Pueblo people to adapt European artistic styles, to resist ecclesiastical authorities in maintaining the hide in their church for a half century after it was prohibited, and to protect what became their culture from the forces of nature.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Painting, Hide
Object Type
Date made
Saint Anthony of Padua
Christ Child
possible artist
Franciscan F?
user; originator
Santo Domingo Mission Church
Franciscan F?
place made
United States: New Mexico, Santo Domingo
associated place
United States: New Mexico, Santo Domingo
Physical Description
tanned and painted (overall production method/technique)
skin, hide, elk? (overall material)
paints, vegetal (overall material)
roman catholicism (overall single or multi-hued)
reconquest, 1693-1710 (overall style)
overall: 47 3/4 in x 27 1/2 in; 121.285 cm x 69.85 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. J. Walter Fewkes
Roman Catholicism
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Religion
Many Voices, One Nation
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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