Wooden Statue

The object in the photographs is a fragment of a terracotta pipe used in the construction of the La Purisima Mission near Lompoc, California in 1788.

The last post featured a pipe from the La Purisima Mission in California.  The Benton County Historical Society’s Horner Collection contains another artifact from a California Mission. 

This almost 12 inch high hand-carved and painted wooden statue depicts Joseph holding the Christ child.  Joseph, Mary’s husband, became a popular subject of religious art during the 16th and 17th centuries in Spain and the Spanish Empire. The Catholic Church used Joseph as a model of a devoted father and husband. The church’s missionaries to California and other places in the Spanish Empire, seemed to think that celebrating the role of Joseph was an important part of converting the indigenous population.  

The child is holding a round object.  In other such depictions, the child is clearly holding a piece of fruit which would symbolize the Garden of Eden and redemption through Christian beliefs.  

This statue was found in a chest with other pieces during a remodeling of the San Luis Obispo Mission.  This mission was the fourth founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1772.  After celebrating a Mass near a cross erected near San Luis Creek, he departed, leaving the building of the mission to his assistant, five soldiers, and the local Chumash natives. The main buildings were completed by 1794.  

By the 1840s, the buildings began to crumble.  An earthquake further weakened the front portico.  Substantial remodeling took place at that time that protected the mission from further decay.  Additional changes were made later, but those were done after the 1928 date of the donation of the statue to the Horner Museum. 

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