LOT 311

Joseph Henry Sharp


Houses Where the Penitentes Live

MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

DIMENSIONS: 20 x 30 inches

Signed lower right


SOLD FOR: $234,000.00

Including Buyers Premium

Additional Information

Known for painting the Taos Pueblo and its people, as well as the people of the Crow Agency in Montana, Joseph Henry Sharp had taken a slight detour by 1915 when he turned his attention to Hispanic subjects of Northern New Mexico. One subject that emerged by 1920 was the Penitente associations, known for their elaborate and secretive ceremonies, some of which included processions and rituals involving self-flagellation as members would lash their bare backs. During his first trip to Taos in 1893, Sharp had remarked how the Catholic-linked Penitente associations were “a subject for a lifetime” that he vowed to “devote years to.” There was a slight delay to that vow, but by the 1920s and 1930s Sharp had painted several works about the Penitentes of New Mexico, including major pieces such as The Old Santos Mender (Old Penitente) from 1925 and, nine years later, The Passing of the Penitente, which shows the lashing ceremony. Sharp staged The Passing of the Penitente in his Luna Chapel studio, which he said had been linked to Penitente practices. Peter Hassrick, in his book The Life & Art of Joseph Henry Sharp, connects Sharp’s interest in the subject to artist Carl von Marr, a Munich teacher that created the 1889 painting The Flagellation, which shows another group of worshipers lashing their backs. Sharp was studying under Marr at the time and later suggested The Flagellation be shown at an 1899 exhibition. It’s within reason to assume Sharp was thinking of the Marr work when he was in Taos painting similar subjects.

Houses Where the Penitentes Live features neither procession nor lashing, but rather a lovely landscape showing a bend in a stream as it turns through a small valley filled with a colorful arrangement of plant life. Three riders can be seen, as can a distant cluster of homes atop a hill. Only a small cross and its well-defined shadow indicate the religious nature of the painting’s setting or subjects.


Phone: (480) 945-0225


Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.

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