Trees of life are a traditional Mexican object usually with a tree trunk and several branches and candle holders on top. They usually contain images of Christianity such as Adam and Eve, nativity scenes or the crucifixion flanked by angels and flowers. But not always! Sometimes they have saints, animals, birds, local fiestas and flowers as inspiration. They are used during special holidays and celebrations as candleholders and originally were given as gifts to young newlyweds to bring fertility.
This is a rare tree of life, most likely made by Heron Martinez, during his "white period."
According to Lee Price Arellano, "The earlier work, called by some “the white period,” had a white background made of bisque ware and covered with a coat of gesso “blanco” – a chalky looking plaster. These white slip bases were often decorated with acrylic paints in vivid colors, with much of the painting done by Martínez’s wife, Olivia. The choice of materials was very wise as years later, the white retains its clarity, and the colors remain bright. Many of the early trees of life and candelabra were quite large, and although seemingly fragile, a surprising number of them have survived well.
This early work has become particularly collectible. Martínez’s fantastic imagination is evident in the widely varied pieces produced during this period. He seemed to be influenced by everything he saw. He even admitted that his dreams were sources of inspiration. He also commented that his trees of life with religious themes were inspired after viewing religious stamps in an album owned by one of his wife’s relatives. Some of the designs prized by collectors include nativity scenes, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Adam and Eve, the flight into Egypt, and altar pieces for the Day of Kings. Non-religious themes include circus figures, such as trapeze artists stacked on one another’s backs, stacked animals and also charming figures of people holding jugs, animals and birds. Some of the more elaborate pieces are decorated on both sides so they can be used as centerpieces. This “white period” clearly was one of the pinnacles of Martínez’s work."
Several years ago I found a Heron Martinez tree of life on Craigslist and bought it for my own collection. This one was found in a second hand store in Minneapolis, sitting on top of a large wardrobe, difficult to see. The vendor told me that it came from a 90 year old woman who was moving from Minneapolis to Seattle and had a truck full of "interesting objects." So, I don't know much about the background of this piece but it's in excellent condition.
$35.99 is a deposit against the full charge of shipping to your destination. This piece will be in the $75-$100 range depending on your destination. You will be billed for additional shipping charges by Paypal invoice after it is packed and ready to ship. If you have any questions, please inquire before purchasing. It can be picked up in Minneapolis, at 54th and Nicollet.
state of origin:
Acatlán, Puebla dimensions:
approx 20" tall by 19" wide