Active 1815-1845

Molleno, sometimes referred to as the “Chile Painter” had a long artistic career that spanned approximately the years from 1815-1845. There are several altar screens attributed to him in northern New Mexico with a fine example in the Chapel of Nuestra Señora de San Juan de Río Chiquito near Rancho de Taos inscribed 1828. This work falls approximately in the middle of his career and serves as an example to which we can compare stylistic artistic details from many of his other works. His work can be divided into three distinctive phases: His early works (approximately 1815-1820) closely resemble those of the Laguna santero as to suggest that he trained under that artist. Aspects of realism are exhibited in his early pieces as are the use of dark and colored backgrounds, elegantly decorated garments, and a wide range of colors.

His middle period (approximately 1821-1839) is characterized by elongated simplified figures with the use of decorative floral motifs as space fillers in the corners of the retablos, resembling acanthus leaves found on early engravings and a three-quarter perspective with a black line that forms the right side of the face. In his last phase (approximately 1840-1845) his figures become increasingly simplified as does his palette which is limited to reds, white, black, and blue. The decorative space filler motifs are often replaced with flat color areas in green or red and resemble chilies, from which his nickname, “Chile Painter” originates. His work is comprised mostly of retablos, with a small number of bultos attributed to him.