Joaquin Castañon
San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Laborer)

1866
Oil on canvas San Antonio Museum of Art

The artist has melded an image of St. Isidore, in his flat-topped hat and gentleman's garb, with scenes of country life in his native Bolivia. To the left of the saint's shins we see the miracle of the two angels with their teams of oxen. Just above these we see the white horse that he brought back to life for his master, Juan Vargas (Acta Sanctorum, May vol. 3, 525). The man kneeling by the horse could be a donor or possibly Vargas himself, who was witness to both miracles and took them as a sign that Isidore was "imbued with divine grace" (Ibid., 516).

On the right side of the painting St. Isidore is striking a rock face with a long rod, a reference to the many water miracles credited to him (Bleda 293; Acta Sanctorum, ibid., 525).

Below the rod we see a woman in a dress and vest feeding grain to her animals. The artist has supplied a label for her: Esposa del Santo Maria Cabesas, "Wife of the Saint, Marķa [de las] Cabezas." She has this name because "her head (conserved in a reliquary and carried in procession) has often brought rain from heaven for an afflicted dry countryside" (Wikipedia, s.v. Maria Torribia).The grain she is distributing may be a reference to a miracle in which her prayers brought forth abundant wheat from chaff that had already been winnowed (Acta Sanctorum, ibid., 553).

The child by her side would be the couple's one son, who died young but looks as healthy as all the other people in this panorama of God's abundance.

The table behind the barnyard scene refers to another miracle in which Isidore showed up unexpectedly and late to a confraternity dinner to which he had been invited. He had brought with him a number of poor people who were hungry. The members told him there was only enough left in the pot for him alone, but when the servants looked again in the pot it was full of food (Acta Sanctorum. ibid., 516).

More of St. Isidore the Laborer

Source: Wikimedia Commons