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Sculpture - Vegetal Fiber Sculptures


Corn-Stem Paste Figures (Mexico)

Origin I Characteristics I Urgency of the Situation I Legislation I Bibliography

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Corn-stem paste Christ
Corn-stem paste Christ,
2.6 x 1.9 m
  © CONACULTA-INAH-MEX. Reproducción autorizada por el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia © CONACULTA-INAH-MEX. Reproducción autorizada por el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia




According to chroniclers, indigenous populations from Michoacán developed the original technique for crafting corn-stem paste figures. These figures were also made in Xochimilco and central Mexico and then distributed to the rest of the country, Spain and probably other places in America. They date from the Viceroyalty period (16th to 18th centuries). Sculptors of this type of art, such as members of De La Cerda family, became well-known.
They were made for religious purposes and were generally found in churches, convents, chapels and other places of cult where they can still be seen nowadays. They are also part of private collections and museums.
Their size varies, ranging between 25 and 30 cm in height and they can measure up to 2 m.
Common pieces depict different moments of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. Images of the Virgin in her various representations are also portrayed. The depiction of Jesus Christ is extremely dramatic, with a particular emphasis on the suffering. The Christ is portrayed bleeding, with carefully drawn wounds and torn skin at the knees or other parts of the body that occasionally show a bone.
They are extremely light due to their composition ; they are made of a hollow wire frame covered with paste. The frame was crafted with paper tubes or light woods such as colorin wood and pinewood. The paste, also used to model facial features, was made from a mixture of sugarcane pulp and glue.
These items are lightweight, porous and fragile, which differentiates them from wooden sculptures.


--Urgency of the Situation  

Corn-stem paste figures are part of the invaluable and original heritage of Mexico, as they reflect the process of evangelization of New Spain as well as the mixture of artistic, religious and technological influences that took place during the Colonial period between Europeans and indigenous populations.
Many of these works are still used as objects of worship in Catholicism and can still be found in churches and processions. Looting brings about the loss of historical testimonies, priceless works of art as well as valuable community traditions.
Their historical context and high degree of artistic craftsmanship account for their high demand among collectors and put them at high risk. They are light and therefore can be easily transported away from their places of origin.


--Legislation Protecting these Objects  

See Mexico

  • Estrada Jaso, Andrés. Imágenes de Caña de Maíz. Estudio, Catálogo y Bibliografía, 2o edición. S.L.P., México, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis de Potosí, 1996.
  • Gutiérrez, Ramón (coord.). Pintura, escultura y artes útiles en Iberoamérica, 1500-1825. Madrid, Ediciones Cátedra, S. A., 1995.


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October 2003