José Manuel Benavides
Active 1830-1855

An artist previously known as the Santo Niño Santero because of the numerous images he painted and sculpted of the Holy Child was active between the 1830s and 1850s. There was little information available to identify this santero, although E. Boyd did propose a José Manuel Benabides as a possibility. It was not until recently that it was confirmed, the Santo Niño Santero was indeed a one José Manuel Benavides.

Benavides was born in Santa Fe. After his parents died, he lived in the small community of Río de Tesuque which was part of the parish of San Francisco (now the cathedral) and only a short distance from the plaza of Santa Fe. There are no known altar screens done by him and he seems to have focused on carved bultos and painted retablos. His work shares many stylistic similarities with José Rafael Aragón, and it has been suggested that the two may have been in the same taller or trained with one another. Although their works are very similar, there are enough stylistic traits that can distinguish Benavides’s work from others.

In general, his pieces are painted with delicate facial features, pronounced eyes, pouty lips and arched eyebrows. Figures are gracefully proportioned, with prominent ears, often with delicate decorations painted on the clothing.