Ivories from Macau and Goa

Intramuros Administration

This exhibit presents examples of ecclesiastical ivory pieces from the Portuguese colony of Macau in Southeastern China and Goa in India that landed on Philippine shores. Great attention to detail may be observed among these pieces; in the delicate countenances, in the intricate lacework on the hems of the garments, and in the miniaturist attitude in rendering contextual or auxiliary elements.

The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade played an important role in the history of religious art in ivory. Not only raw material boarded the galleons but finished pieces as well, making it possible for beautifully carved ivories to be imported into and exported out of the Philippines.

Portuguese Macau and Goa produced beautifully crafted Christian pieces that still reflect the Asian artistic identity (Estella, 1972). Both of these aforementioned regions have ivory carving traditions predating Christianity, acknowledged for their significant contributions to colonial art in ivory.

Her mantle, in playful drapes is polychromed in pink, blue and gold leaf. Carved in the luso-indian style as manifested in the pushback coiffure, and the draping of the mantle (Gatbonton, 1983).

The Child Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Lambs rest on his lap and shoulder. Images like this normally rests on a multi-tiered base with grazing sheep (Gatbonton, 1983)

Note the quilted robes and knee-length trousers as well as the gourd canteen where his right arm rests.

An interesting piece of the Child Jesus as the Good Shepherd complete with a three-tiered base featuring an array of surrealistic scenes.

A beast with a long tongue reaching downwards emerges from the bushes on the topmost layer.

The beast seems to prey on the grazing sheep on the middle tier.

A reclining female figure contemplating on the cross (perhaps Mary Magdalene) forms the bottom tier.

An image of the Immaculate Conception carved complete with an ornamented octagonal ivory base. Hands and one horn of the crescent moon missing.

Note the systematic folds of the draped mantle as well as the lacework on the hems.

Interesting to note as well is the angular hair locks ending in small curls.

A small six-piece ivory nativity scene comprised of Mary, Joseph, the Infant Jesus and three angels. The robes are decorated in gold leaf.

These three angels represent the heavenly choir that sung upon the birth of the Savior.

Two of the angels play musical instruments; one with a lute, te other with a guitar.

The wings of the angels are made of thin shells.

The Holy Infant rests on a cradle made of loosely woven wire and twigs.

An image of Saint Joseph with the drapes of his cloak intricately carved.

Note the shallow bowl-shaped, piece work golden halo of Saint Joseph.

The Virgin is typical of ivory figurines from Goa. Note the fine lacework on the hems of the vestments.

Credits: Story

Estella, Margarita Marcos. La Sculpture en Ivoire Hispano-Philippines. Budapest: Publishing
House of the Hungarian Academy of Science, 1972.
Gatbonton, Esperanza. Philppine Religious Carvings in Ivory. Manila: Intramuros
Administration, 1983.
Jose, Regalado. Images of Faith: Religious Ivory Carvings from the Philippines. Pasadena:
Pacific Asia Museum, 1990.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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