Lot #039
Tabernacle
Late 18th-Early 19th Century
Silver and Wood
H:51 1/2” x L:30 1/2” x W:16 1/2” (131 cm x 77 cm x 41 cm)
Starting Bid : Php 1,400,000
HP + BP : Php 1,868,800
The 2nd Vatican Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) of 1959 modernized the thinking and rituals of the Catholic Church. The vernacular language, instead of Latin, was used in the Mass, ornate clerical regalia went into disuse and the priest celebrated Mass facing the congregation. Until then, Roman Catholic churches had an ornamented receptacle or cabinet on or above an altar in which a pyx containing the reserved sacrament was kept. From then on, the tabernacle, as it was called, could be placed anywhere in the apse.
The tabernacle in early colonial churches was usually made of wood. There are beautifully carved molave ones still extant, although majority of them have lost their original polychrome and gilding. As towns became more prosperous and churches became bigger, tabernacles, too, were upgraded and silver became the material of choice for the richer parishes.
This particular piece, which must have belonged to a rich and large church, still has its original wooden carcass enveloped in beaten silver. It stands on a base designed to resemble the façade of a baroque church with two columns on either side of an arched doorway. The whole ensemble stands on a silver base with a central projection and a series of receding planes, so characteristic of baroque architecture. The wide central panel of the base is embossed and chased with a symmetrical pattern of vine scrolls ending with leaves and stylized flowers. The projecting pedestals of each column are embossed on every visible side with an embossed and chased pattern of a leafy branch with a flower hanging on a ring. The plasticity of the tabernacle design is emphasized by the protrusions of the façade, the dramatic central projection, and a dynamic rhythm of columns and massing that create shadow and light. The eye of the beholder is led to an arched doorway flanked by a pair of columns with ionic capitals decorated with acanthus leaves. The arched tabernacle door is embossed and chased to resemble an alcove with overhead curtains tied into swags with elaborate tasseled ropes. The rest of the door has an embossed and chased monstrance topped by a silver-gilt rondel chased with a relief of The Last Supper above an engraved prayer flanked by symmetrical embossed reserves surrounded by rococo leaves and scrolls. At the foot of the monstrance is a pair of angels kneeling in adoration and swinging censers.
The full entablature above the columns has the requisite moldings above and below a frieze embossed and chased with a row of single flowers. Urn-shaped finials placed above each column flank a half-dome surmounted by an orb with a cross.
-Martin I. Tinio, Jr.