Jan., 1862 Cordova Rio Arriba County New Mexico, USA
The Encyclopedia of American Folk Art (by Gerard C. Wertkin, Lee Kogan, American Folk Art Museum) describes Jose Rafael as the most prolific and popular santero (carvers and painters of devotional art) of northern New Mexico in the early 1800s. As a young man in Santa Fe, he was exposed to Baroque and Neoclassical styles. He was probably influenced by sculpter Anastacio Cassados. Jose Rafael's painting style exibited humanistic tendencies. His sculptural style was a restrained Baroque with fundamentally static frontal stances. He moved to the northern New Mexico village of Pueblo Quemado (today called Cordova) which became his base of operations. He is credited for much of the artwork of the Santa Cruz de la Caņada Church and for altar screens of the churches in the northern New Mexico villages of Chimayo, Pojoaque, Cordova, El Valle, Picuris Pueblo, Talpa, and Llano Quemado. As a wood carver he worked with ponderosa and cottonwood. Some of these works were intended for private ownership and not for the churches and some have found their way into museums. His carvings would be covered with gesso or plaster and then applied with watercolors. His sculptural figures are noted for his creative decorative motifs, color contrasts, elongated and graceful proportions, delicate features and a distinctive bump on the nose.
Jose Rafael was originally buried in the San Antonio de Padua Church in Pueblo Quemado. His remains were later moved to the Santa Cruz de la Caņada Church.