One vanishing art that is taught in mostly Catholic schools is the construction of 3-dimensional religious images from flat pictures, encased in a shadow box. This art form has its origins in the monastic arts of yore that were created by nuns to while away their leisure time, that often includes embroidery, painting, shellcraft, paper tole and paper curling. When religious-run schools were established, nuns passed on this shadow box art to their students, as part of the art education classes.
This small vintage, 1950s 3-D picture of San Antonio de Padua with the Child Jesus, was found assembled in a cardboard box, its frame gone. To achieve the 3-D look, the colored figure of the baby-holding saint is first cut out, then is “clothed” with brown fabric that is folded, creased and glue to the figure, to simulate the natural drapes of the robes when worn by a real person.
The cincture was fashioned from a piece of string, and the vestments decorated with sequins. The Child Jesus is dressed using the same process. The saint’s paper hands, and the Baby’s arm and feet, which have been cut separately, are then set appropriately to complete the 3-D illusion.
The whole ensemble was pasted on a cardboard backing, decorated with cotton, fabric flowers and foil leaves. The backing, as it turned out, was from a bakery carton packaging (Plaza Bakery) that may once have kept a pie or a cake for Christmas.
The well-preserved San Antonio cut-out was carefully removed from this backing, and the most of the fabric flower decorations were saved. The cutout, together with the rewired flowers and foil leaves, were then assembled on a new, thicker cardboard backing.
Meanwhile, a new cardboard box was constructed from foam board and the lined with brown, ruffled fabric to form the matting. The cardboard containing the 3-D San Antonio was then glued onto the inside of box.
The whole assembly was then encased permanently under a vintage glass frame, the last step in the shadow box art reconstruction.