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Let’s talk about Feliz Navidad New Mexico style! This beautiful and elaborate folk-art assemblage depicts an age-old religious scene which occurred on a cold night in the Holy Land 2019 years ago. The infant Christ child the baby Jesus, his Father Joseph and his Mother Mary could find no place to stay that night after wandering on their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and finally took refuge in a manger. As the night was very cold, their animals bedded down inside with them. The rest, of course is history.

In 1971, the distinguished Cordova, New Mexico Santero George T. Lopez (1900-1993) was specially commissioned by a California couple to carve a version of this timeless scene for them which he did that year. This couple kept this Christmas Nativity Scene for the next forty-six years until selling it to us in 2017.

"It's part of my life, and part of my name ... 

I'm a sixth-generation santero.”

-George Lopez

An original black and white photograph of George Lopez, c. 1940’s

To view our website listing of this photograph, please click here.

George Lopez is an extremely important figure in the history of Southwestern and American Folk Art. Son of the renowned Cordova, New Mexico Santero, Jose Dolores Lopez (1868-1937), who pioneered the distinctive unpainted “Cordova Style” of wood carving in the 1920’s, young George learned his art literally at his father’s knee. He left home at age 19 to work as a journeyman on the railroad at various places around the West. He returned to New Mexico to work construction at Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II and eventually settled back into his tiny 16th century home village of Cordova nestled deep in the Sangre de Cristo mountains some 30 miles north of Santa Fe to continue a life time of carving which he did for the next forty-plus years into his early 90’s. In 1982, George’s lifetime achievements were officially and prominently recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts when he was awarded an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. George Lopez’s carvings are held in numerous major museum collections including, importantly, the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

We have been quite fortunate to have had a good number of significant George Lopez pieces over the the past 35 years including the two large pieces he is shown working on in the historic photograph shown below, but this is the only Nativity Scene of his we have ever had and it is a lovely and exceptional piece indeed. The scene is carved out of two different types of Native wood; the lighter colored wood is Aspen and the darker reddish wood is Mountain Mahogany or Juniper. The creche is composed of nine distinct pieces in all; first is the large and elaborately carved manger which is itself composed of 29 separate, hand-carved wooden elements, next there are four different human figures, Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus (and his cradle) and a winged Archangel. Finally, there are the various accompanying animals in the manger; a cow, a sheep and a burro. The overall level of attention to detail here is marvelous, the creche’s colonnade and roof with its star of Bethlehem are elaborately and finely detailed. The figures are all most expressively rendered; particularly the sweetness and devotion of Mother Mary, Baby Jesus and the bold attentiveness of the protecting Archangel. The devotion evident throughout the piece is indicative of Lopez’s own intense religious belief and faith. George Lopez, like his Father before him was a lifelong member of the “Hermandad” or Penitente Brotherhood, and in this capacity he brought an extra measure of religious zeal and intensity to bear on his work.

“In 1971, my wife and I visited George Lopez in Cordova. My wife asked him to carve

a Nativity for her. He agreed, and we ended up with a Manger scene with Mary, Joseph,

Jesus, shepherds, a sheep, a cow, an angel etc.”

-The Creche’s original owner

An elaborately hand-carved historic New Mexico folk art Nativity Scene by legendary Santero George T. Lopez,1971

The wooden creche itself measures 15 1/2” in height at the front including the surmounting Star of Bethlehem and it slopes downwards to 11” in height at the rear. It is 15” in maximum width across the front and it is 12” deep. The dimensions of the various individual figures are all indicated below. Two of the figures, that of Joseph and the burro are signed on the bottom “George Lopez, Cordova N Mex” as indicated here but the other pieces are unsigned. The entire Nativity Scene is in generally excellent original condition. There is a small amount of white glue and wood residue present on the top of the creche on both sides which would seem to indicate that there might have been additional small stars or birds there which broke off but the creche’s original owner insists that this is not the case. Possibly, Lopez had glued something there originally and changed his mind.

Please be advised that this piece has a certain amount of New Mexico “funk” to it; all the glue joints and angles are not completely straight or even, some of the joints are beautifully chamfered and pegged, others are sort of sloppily glued with Elmer’s white glue. This was part of George Lopez’s rustic charm. This is also

a very difficult piece to pack and ship and truth be told it would likely be better not to do so. We cannot guarantee that no matter how carefully we packed this piece that something or another might not just pop

off it. Not really that big a deal, though, the tried and true New Mexico way is to just glue it back on.

This Nativity Scene is an extremely unique and accomplished major piece by a distinguished

World-level American folk artist. As such, it is completely worthy of an important place in any Museum

or distinguished private collection.

Price $5,850 for the set

Inquire                                                                        Purchase

Joseph: 9” height, 5” width

Archangel: 10” height, 4 ½” width

Baby Jesus: 4” length, 1” width

Cradle: 6” length, 2 ¾” width

Cow: 5 ½” length, 2 ¾” height

Sheep: 4” length, 2 3/4” height

Burro: 3 ½” length, 5 ½” height

Mary Magdalene: 8” height, 2” width