Francisco Vargas wax dolls

i am looking for someone whose is knowlegeable in Fransico Vargas wax dolls. ABOUT THE ARTIST: Born in 1825, Francisco Vargas Sr. was a native of Mexico who arrived in the United States by covered wagon in 1864 and found his way to New Orleans several years later. By 1875, he had set up shop on Royal Street, making wax sculptures, a trade he had learned as a boy from a Jesuit priest. Though beeswax sculptures had been produced for centuries by various cultures, Vargas was part of a resurgence in popularity for the art form, which had started in Mexico during the mid-1800s. Instead of focusing on religious images, Vargas embraced a wider variety of subjects and found a niche in creating human figures and animals as well as fruits, vegetables and flowers. Among the most highly prized of his works were lifelike sculptures of American Indians, often shown in vigorous activities such as riding a horse or hunting with bow and arrow. Vargas’ original sculptures were known for their complexity and intricate detail, which included such minute features as eyelashes, hair and even beads of perspiration.

  • Ruy G Hermosillo

    I have recently acquired 5 of the Vargas figurines ca.1890s and they are really beautiful in their detailed work and would love to learn more about them…

  • Karen Lewis Roche

    What would you like to know? Francisco Vargas was my great great grandfather. I have always been interested in him and did some ancestory research. I arranged for our family reunion to have a privite showing of his pieces, at the Cabildo Museum, in New Orleans.

    • Hi Karen and Michelle,
      My mother and I are from Louisiana but our ancestry comes originally from Spain. My mother has a large collection of Vargas wax figures and we are trying to research them heavily. We are trying to write about the history of the Vargas family and the wax figure tradition. We are members of the national organization, the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) whose mission is the research and preservation of dolls. We adore my mother’s collection and the talent that went into these wonderful figures. I believe when my mother was younger, she may have met one of the Vargas family, she mentioned something about being in New Orleans at the museum and talking with a Vargas family member years ago… I would love to speak with you about your family and the wax figure tradition. I hope that you will have a chance to email me or call me! Thank you so much!
      520-883-5848 Tucson, AZ

      • Danny Riggs

        I believe the wife was the only one to learn how to do this.

        • Karen Lewis Roche

          His wife was not the only one to learn the trade. I am 55 yrs old and I can remember family members in the back of my grandmothers home making this dolls. He had a son and two of his daughters that continued the craft, that I know of. Then their children must have also continued it for a while. That I am aware of, no one in our family has continued making these fabulous dolls.

    • bill jones

      do you know how long the dolls were made? did any of the family members continue the doll making tradition after the death of francisco? thank you for your assistance.

      i have a collection of 10 of his dolls and wouldn’t sell them for anything.

    • Eric Hood

      Hi Karen–it’s your cousin Eric from MS. Just wanted to say hello and Happy New Year to everyone hope it’s a great year to come. It was great seeing all the interest in great grandad’s artwork! Keep in touch. Eric

  • Michelle Vargas

    Interesting Karen, he is my great great grandfather as well. I’ve always known that his name was Francisco, but I never knew about him until I became older and started researching my family and finding family journals dating back to the 1700s when they were still in Spain. My grandfather was able to give a lot of information to the Museum dedicated to him in New Orleans. He was able to fill in the blanks on some missing information on wives etc. It is a small world after all.

    • John Mangipano

      I would really love to see those journals. I am writing my thesis on Francisco Vargas. My goal is to demonstrate the importance of his life, for it provides insight into immigration and ethnicity. I have presented my findings at a few conferences over the last year.

      Are you in possession of these journals? Are they still in Spain?

    • Michael decker jr

      Francisco is my great great grandfather as well. I am from new Orleans and knew my great grandmother, his daughter. My family down here only has 1 sculpture, that I know of, it is of the Virgin Mary that my aunt possesses. I would like to purchase something for myself and my family, any suggestions?

  • Derek Bernett

    I have a 14 inch high Vargas sculpture of an Indian on horseback, with a jaguar attacking the horse and the indian burying his knife in the Jaguar’s back. It was purchased by my father from the New Orleans Basilica in 1938, or 1939. I have the sales documents and shipping paperwork. It originally had a large glass dome over the sculture, long ago broken. It still has the wooden base with the slot in the circumference where the dome fit into. Is anyone aware of the value or desireability of such a scuplture to the collector world?

    • Karen Lewis Roche

      I would love to see a photo of your piece. It sounds exquisite. I remember, in my grandparents home, a sculpture that was similiar to yours. It was a matador in the bull ring. He has stabbed the bull. The expressions on the bull and matador were so life like. I loved the matador costume that was intricately sewn with beads and sequins; so authentic of the matador attire. It was donated to the calbildo museum in New Orleans. The glass dome was also broken. Last time I visited the museum, it was covered in dust and beginning to break.

  • John Mangipano

    Francisco is my ancestor as well. I am researching him right now. If any of you read this, please email me at

  • Laurie Palasz

    I believe my grandmother visited the reservation where your grandfather lived in Mexico. She purchased 4 male dolls and 3 female dolls. They are dated 1986-87. I don’t know who in your family who could have made them. But they do say “Frank Vargas” on the bottom. An info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • John Mangipano

    I don’t see my last message as being posted on here, so I will try again.

    If they are dated 1986-1987, they can’t be Francisco Vargas. If you meant 1886-87 (or the dates are wrong) they could be Francisco Junior or Senior.

    I was not aware of them living on a reservation. Please tell me more about it. Was it near Puebla or Mexico City?

  • John Mangipano

    I wantto clarify that I recently came across a 2nd line of family that continued to produce wax figures that I previously didnt believe did. They lived in Texas in the 1900s. It is possible Frank Vargas is from this line.

  • Valeria Jimenez

    Ruy (Hermosillo) and Bill Jones – I’m hoping that you will both see this message since it has been some time since you posted. Would you be willing to share some pictures about your Vargas pieces with me? I’d really love to see them. I’m currently working on a dissertation that examines Francisco Vargas and his art. Please contact me at

  • Dear Karen and Michelle – I hope you will both still be able to see this message. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently working on a dissertation that examines the work of Francisco Vargas within the broader context of Mexican artists in New Orleans during the 19th century. I would be very interested in seeing any Vargas pieces and/or family documents that you may have. Any information you’d be willing to share with me would be greatly appreciated. Please contact me at at your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you!

  • Derek – Do you still have copies of the sales docs and shipping receipts for your piece? Might you be willing to share these and/or some images of your piece? They would be incredibly useful to me as I work on my dissertation. In addition, I’d be happy to help you find information about the value of such a piece. Please email me at

    I look forward to hearing from you!

  • Mary Ann Plaut

    For an El Paso, Texas connection to Francisco Vargas, thee are two articles in the El Paso Herald for 1912 and 1914. Put the following on Google: Chronicling American newspapers online. This is the Library of Congress newspaper archive. A page will come up with an “Advanced Search” option. Click on this and then Select state: “Texas” Select newspaper: El Paso Herald. To enter a search term, go to the box on the right that says “… with the phrases” and enter
    the name Francisco Vargas. Then click “search”
    Two pages will appear with search term highlighted in red. Under the first picture, click on the name and date of newspaper. The actual newspaper page will appear. With mouse, go to red highlight. To enlarge article, click mouse. Isn’t technology wonderful!

  • Lorraine


    Could anyone please tell me since I’m hearing mainly about Indian on horseback and other Indian works of art that Francisco Vargas did. Can anyone tell me if he was also noted for creating old men and women (couples) in wax or do I have the wrong Vargas? All I know is that when I was in the San Diego area about 30 years ago I was antiquing at a store called “Unicorn Antique Mall”. It was there that I picked up a pair of Vargas wax dolls (from Mexico area) is noted on the little yellow tag that was attached to it. Also in the description it says “1930. Tramp Art Setee. Then it says Pair & Setee and the piece was $95.00. I would appreciate any feedback about whether any of you know if he did these old couples in wax. Thank you. Lorraine

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