Lot #016
Rococo Monstrance
18th Century
Silver-Gilt and Glass (1819 g)
H:24” x L:9” x W:9” (61 cm x 23 cm x 23 cm)
Starting Bid : Php 160,000
HP + BP : Php 256,960
A monstrance (from the Latin monstrare, to show) is also known as an ostensorium, another Latin word with the same meaning. A vessel originally used during the Middle Ages for the public display of relics, it eventually was mainly used to display the consecrated Eucharist during the Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In this ritual, the priest blesses the worshippers while holding aloft the ostensorium containing the Host. Since the Host was believed to be the Body of Christ, it meant that it was Christ Himself, and not the priest, who was giving His blessing.
The most popular form of a monstrance was that of a cross-topped sunburst on a stand with a pommel or knob to prevent the vessel from slipping when the priest elevated it. Since it contained the Eucharist, held in place by a lunette within a glass disk at the center of the sunburst, it was considered very holy and treated with such respect that the priest did not touch the vessel with his bare hands. Whenever he raised the ostensorium, he wore a humeral veil, a wide band of cloth that covered his shoulders (humerae in Latin), with pleats on the inside in which he placed his hands when holding the monstrance.
This large silver-gilt monstrance that once belonged to an important and wealthy church is completely decorated from top to bottom with finely executed embossed and chased patterns and motifs that show the skill of Filipino silversmiths. The object is ‘dorado a fuego’ or fire-gilded, a process wherein pure gold is combined with mercury to form a paste which is then painted over the surface to be gilded. When the object is baked, the mercury oozes out leaving a coating of pure gold on the surface. The process is highly toxic due to the mercury fumes exuded and is seldom used today. Nowadays, an object gilded in this manner is called vermeil and the manner of gilding is sometimes called ‘mercury gilding’. The monstrance stands on a circular base and, with all the surfaces of the entire piece decorated in elaborate detail, is a rare example of ‘horror vacui’ in Philippine art. The lowest part of the base is a flat horizontal border chased with line scrolls, while the rest of the base consists of three convex registers of diminishing widths. The lower, wider one is embossed and chased with an oval boss surrounded by C-scrolls that make it look like a cabochon gem in a claw setting that is flanked by symmetrical scrolls with varying textures on either side. Alternating with each oval is the face of a cherub with folded wings. The cherub wears a feathered headdress and a feather collar, a motif so typical of Mexican ‘mestizaje’ designs. The entire background of the piece is stippled.
The middle register of the base is also embossed and chased with an alternating pattern of small paisley-like forms with ruffled borders. The narrower, topmost register is decorated with several single flowers symmetrically flanked by scrollwork, with each blossom joined together by flat molding forming a flattened lambrequin.
The lower part of the stem is edged with a series of oval indentations surrounding an alternating design of half-blossoms separated by scrollwork. There is a large knopf in the middle of the stem which the priest held when elevating the monstrance. The knopf, embossed and chased in front and at the back with elongated tear-drop lozenges amidst a riot of scrollwork, is further embellished with S-scrolls attached to either side. Aside from the decorative effect, the latter was placed there to prevent the monstrance from slipping, when the priest blessed the congregation with the monstrance. There are several nodes above and below the knopf, all chased with scrollwork.
The upper part of the stem seemingly supports a circle with a glass disk for the host surrounded by a sunburst with rays flanked by spikes alternating with a longer spike tipped with a star. The top of the sunburst is decorated with a cross.
-Martin I. Tinio, Jr.