HERRERA, JUAN MIGUEL
was a wellknown late-nineteenth-century sculptor of religious images and a native of the village of Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, north of Taos. Herrera specialized inlarge, processional figures
for use by local churches and lay brotherhoods
. These figures, which included Christ Crucified, Christ in the HolySepulchre, and the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Solitude, were used in community Holy Week processions to reenact the suffering of Christ, his last meeting with Mary,and his crucifixion and descent from the cross.Like many Hispanic villagers of his day, Herrera pursued several occupations to make a living. He was a farmer and musician as well as a carver of
. In the1860 Taos County census he lists his occupation as “fiddler” and later listed it as “farmer.” Herrera was probably an apprentice to the Arroyo Hondo Carver (active c.1830–c. 1850), whose earlier work was popular in the region. In addition to living in the same community, Herrera’s work bears some stylistic similarities to theArroyo Hondo Carver’s. Herrera’s range of subjects, at least based upon surviving pieces, was more limited, however, and his colors were limited by dependenceupon commercial oil paints. Like those of his presumed mentor, his
also tend to be quite abstract and severe, yet they are powerful in their straightforward presentation. In their frontal stance andexpressionless gaze they are also quite in keeping with the work of other
sculptors of the late nineteenth century, such as Juan Ramón Velázquez and JoséBenito Ortega (1858–1941). In making
Herrera was assisted by his brother, Candelario Herrera, and his son, Juan de Dios Herrera, who was perhaps the lastof the traditional
or makers of figures of saints. During an interview in 1949, Juan de Dios Herrera stated that he had helped his father make
and thathe had made a few himself, including one as late as 1908.
Arroyo Hondo Carver; Bultos; José Benito Ortega; Religious Folk Art; Retablos;
Shalkop, Robert L.
Arroyo Hondo: The Folk Art of a New Mexican Village.
Colorado Springs, Colo., 1969.Wroth, William.
Images of Penance, Images of Mercy: Southwestern Santos in the Late Nineteenth Century.
Norman, Okla., and London, 1991