Pedro Antonio Fresquís
Active 1780-1825

Pedro Antonio Fresquís, was first dubbed as the “Calligraphic Santero” because of the “penmanship-like drawing…of his pieces”. He also was given the name Pedro Antonio Fresquís based on the discovery of painted initials, “P.A.F.,” painted on the horses rumps in two retablos as well as documentary evidence suggesting a possible identification for this artist. The artist was later re-named the “Truchas Master” in reference to his major known works of two altar screens in the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de las Truchas after the town north of Santa Fe where the works were found.

Tree-ring dating of the pine panels on which Fresquís painted reveals that he may have been working as early as 1780. If so, he is probably the first New Mexican born santero. Fresquís often painted subjects and allegorical scenes not normally depicted in New Mexico and from evidence of careful inscriptions written on a number of his retablos done in the same style, it is highly probable he was literate. It is possible through his literacy he may have had access to printed materials which would have included engraved images from pamphlets and books brought from Mexico. Many of his pieces depict flora identical to that found on decorated earthenware pottery from Mexico called mayólica (which copied imported Chinese porcelain brought to Mexico via the Manila galleons) and could be another important source for his imagery.

The figures in his retablos are primarily flat, defined in simple outline and often feature long narrow noses drawn to include the nose and the eyebrow with a distinctive loop at the bottom, with oval or crescent-shaped eyes. He used sgraffito (incising), into wet gesso or paint to decorate borders as well as cross-hatching to fill space or to add details to the figures. Many were placed on drawn tile floors that receded into the background to give them a sense of dimensionality.