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Death Cart (Carreta de la Muerte)

Artist/maker unknown, American

Possibly made near Córdova, New Mexico, United States, North and Central America
Possibly made near Taos, New Mexico, United States, North and Central America

c. 1880-1900

Cottonwood, spruce wheels, paint, hair, sheep's teeth (?), glass or obsidian eyes, rope, black wool/silk mantilla

51 x 25 x 49 inches (129.5 x 63.5 x 124.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Thomas Skelton Harrison Fund and with funds contributed by Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest and Marvin B. Levitties, and with the gift (by exchange) of Mrs. Elizabeth Titus, 2006

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This powerful sculpture represents the art of the Penitente brotherhoods, religious groups that flourished in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado in the nineteenth century. Pulled in an Easter procession, this terrifying figure---skeletal, shrouded, and armed with a bow and arrow---warns of the constant presence of death and the perils awaiting an unprepared, unrepentant sinner.

The Death Cart belongs to the tradition of dramatic sculpture of Spain and Latin America. Working in a village far from metropolitan centers, the master who made this sculpture developed a personal style of unnerving naturalism and expressive abstraction.