An Interpretation of the Virgin

Intramuros Administration

This exhibit showcases select images from the Spanish Colonial Philippines from the 16th to 19th centuries. These are largely accepted to have been carved by Chinese and local artisans whose culture and experiences were different from their colonial rulers, as presented in the following images.

Saint Anne with Child Mary
Here is a representation of the Virgin Mother's family, with Mary as a daughter leaning on her mother, Saint Anne's lap with her father, Saint Joachim standing on the other side.

Indigenous Catholic images are very different from their European counterparts.

This earlier image of Mary, for example, lacks the usual graceful flow of robes in icons from the other side of the globe.

Gatbonton (1983) explains that local artisans were unfamiliar with Catholic iconography; its portrayal and meaning.

This resulted in local Catholic images which mirror native gestures and features.

This image of the Immaculate Conception, although interpreted with Oriental eyes, was dressed in 17th century garb of Spanish royalty, showing an adaptation of foreign imagery.

Here is another image which deviates from the traditional Catholic iconography.

Especially noticeable are the three cherubs, in relief, at the base with "Chinese" faces and coiffures.

This image of Mary in wood features one of the more common traits in local icons, the swirling round clouds in the base.

The base also showcases a lotus blossom; purity in Buddhism, a perfect symbolism for the Virgin Mary.

This polychromed image of the Immaculate Conception in wood shows a serpent by the Virgin's feet representing her triumph over evil.

What is peculiar about the image is the leaf in the serpent's mouth.

The image of the Immaculate Conception has been adopted into local artistry as she continues to hold an integral part in the lives of Filipino Catholics.

At present, the Immaculate Conception is the principal patroness of the Philippines and the principal patroness of the Manila Cathedral, one of the seven churches in old Manila.

Credits: Story

Gatbonton, Esperanza Bunag. Philippine Religious: Carvings in Ivory. Manila: Intramuros Administration, 1983.

Credits: All media
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