Origin: Jose Benito Ortega
Date: Late 19th to early 20th Century
Media: Wood, gesso, paint
Dimensions: 20″ x 20″
Description: La Familia Sagrada, or the Holy Family, is presented here in sculptural form with Mary and Joseph holding the hands of child Jesus. Jose Benito Ortega did a small number of these, and this one is classic in form, style and colors. It’s on the lager side of similar ones done, measuring 20″ tall. The 3 figures are set on a base and backing system that appears to be early, but perhaps not all original. The connection of the wood joints are all cut in like mortis and tenon. The highly contrasting faces of all three presents a dramatic effect where ever the display is mounted. In looking closely at the objects, it’s curious to me that Mary is looking the most downward, while Joseph’s eyes are lifted up just a touch towards the horizon line whereas the Christ child is looking directly forward at the horizon line. Both Mary and Joseph have in their hands some sort of staff. Each of the objects has a necklace done in the Pueblo style with coral beads with turquoise tabs. I’ve been asked if perhaps this was part of a Pueblo family’s home, considering this added embellishment.
Provenance: These figures are from the Collection of Alden Frick Megrew (1910-1987), former Chairman of the Art Department University of Colorado, by descent. His family had a house in New Mexico in the 1950’s and 1960’s and photos of these pieces exist showing them in situ in the home from those times.
Restoration: Minor restoration found around the nose of Joseph, as well as on his shoulder and a small area of Mother Mary just below her neck. There is some work needed on the Christ child’s right arm as seen in the photos.