Saint Nino de Atoche (2006)

Copyright J. Cobb


This title refers to the saint of the town of Atocha in Spain and adopted by the people of Mexico. In Spain he is depicted as blond-haired and blue-eyed, but in Mexico he is Hispanic.

In the 13th century, Spain was under Muslim rule. The town of Atocha was lost to the Muslims, and many Christians there were taken as prisoners of war. The Christians were placed on strict punishments and prohibitions, and their captors denied the devout prisoners food. According to legend, only children under the age of 12 were permitted to bring them food. The women of Atocha knew that the prisoners, mostly their relatives and friends, could not survive under such harsh conditions. As a result, the women prayed before the statue of the Virgin Mary to ask her son Jesus Christ for aid and help. Reports soon began among the people of Atocha that a child under the age of twelve had begun to bring food to childless prisoners. The child was dressed in pilgrim’s clothing yet he could not be identified as to his name or his origin.

John has painted this story of a small boy who has supplied the poor with food and water from his mother’s basket. Here, he returns from his night’s work with empty basket and empty water gourd.