Saint Vincent Ferrer/San Vincente Ferrer
Feast day: April 5t
Patron of the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain, and of Spanish orphans, fishermen, builders, and prisoners.
Invoked when in dire need of saving, protection, and guidance.
Essay by Alex Nipper
Saint Vincent Ferrer was an inspiring Dominican and a prominent figure of the church where he was born and raised in Valencia, Spain. His sermons were the foremost influential in bringing people closer to God through his detailed descriptions of sin, death, the afterlife, and God’s Final Judgement. This notoriety earned him the title of “Angel of Judgment,” amongst his peers. He is known for having taught people lessons from the Book of Revelations to non-believers so that all the lost Souls in his community could find peace in God. The saint was also a trustworthy figure and became a key advisor to the King of Portugal. Saint Vincent Ferrer died in 1419 at a young age and was canonized in 1455.
Saint Vincent Ferrer’s depiction in retablo art can be seen with large black and white wings emanating from his back representing his teachings related to the Last Judgment and the Book of Revelations (fig. 1). He is also depicted wearing the black-and-white habit of a Dominican. He holds a cross in his right hand and the Bible in his left. The crucifix signifies his commitment and dedication to God, while the Bible is open in the Book of Revelation, specifically Revelation 14:7. In the King James Version of the Bible, the verse reads, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment will come.” A verse Ferrer was well known for teaching his students.
This full-length portrait of Saint Vincent Ferrer is an iconic portrayal of the saint, with his wings spread out and the rays of light beaming from behind the head and shoulders, a reference to his ability to enlighten those around him. His black and white wings and wardrobe represent both life and death, a subject he was committed to teaching to his community.
Figure 1. Saint Vincent Ferrer / San Vicente Ferrer
Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.
Oil on tin. 13¾” x 19⅝”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1969.1.3.
Donor: Dr. Ezra K. Neidrich.
Hall, James, Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1974.
Steele, Thomas J. Santos and Saints: The Religious Folk Art of Hispanic New Mexico. Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City Press, 1994.
Zarur, Elizabeth Netto Calil, and Charles Muir Lovell, eds, Art and Faith in Mexico: The Nineteenth-Century Retablo Tradition. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.