Wood polychrome sculpture has been an integral component of the religious imagery found throughout the churches of colonial Latin America since the 16th century. The earliest, and the most important work of colonial sculpture in the collection, is a large polychrome wood altar panel in high relief of Santiago Matamoros (1590s). Presumably produced in the area of Mexico City, this exceptional work of sculpture retains its original architectural Mannerist strapwork frame of polychrome wood.
Fine examples of Indo-Portuguese and Hispano-Philippine ivory sculptures from the 17th century also figure in the collection. Produced in Goa for the Portuguese and Spanish markets is a figure of The Christ Child as Good Shepherd that includes at the bottom a recumbent figure of Mary Magdalene reading the scriptures in a grotto. Hispano-Philippine ivory sculptures, produced either in mainland China or in the Philippines by Chinese carvers for the Spanish and American markets, include figures of the Virgin and Child, a Kneeling Virgin, and Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, the later retaining their original polychrome decoration.
Works from South America include a section of choir stalls that date from around 1674 from the Monastery of San Francisco in Lima, Peru. The decoration of the elaborately carved choir stalls incorporates figures of the Franciscan Saints Daniel the Martyr, James of the Marches, and Louis of Toulouse, along with cherubs’ heads, caryatids, and grotesque masks. From the renowned Quito School in Ecuador are several exceptional 18th-century polychrome wood sculptures: a Virgin of Quito (1700-1725) with finely executed polychromy; a large figure of Saint Michael Archangel (1700-1750), one of the most popular saints throughout Latin America; and a group of four unique allegorical sculptures representing the fates of man, dating from the second half of the 18th-century, that are attributed to Manuel Chili, known as Caspicara.