ìvory and kamagong wood
ivory: 27" x 24"x 4" (66 cm x 61 cm x 10 cm)
kamagong: 48"x 28"x 2" (122 cm x 71 cm x 5 cm)
Provenance: Private Collection, Madrid
Ivory crucifixes of the 17th century are very rare, more so if they exceed 12” in height. This 27” one was made in the Parian, the Chinese enclave in Manila and the world’s first Chinatown.
The Cristo was carved from bone-white ivory and was never painted. It has well-defined Oriental features with eyes that are heavy lidded and bulging with a pronounced brow ridge typical of those made in the 17th century. The ivory corpus is beautifully carved in the Cristo Expirante pose and follows the Eastern perspective, wherein the legs are shorter and the arms longer in relation to the trunk. The carving of the beard and the hair, in particular, is very finely detailed, with each individual strand discernible.
The image of Christ wears a crown of thorns that is carved as one with the head, a significant feature of 17th-century Cristos that disappeared in the 18th century. In this instance, the crown is realistically rendered as three intertwined vines with protruding thorns that are carved as an integral part of the head which is consistent with 17th century renderings. In the 19th century, the crown of thorns reappeared, but they were made of silver or gilded metal and were merely placed on the head. The perizonium, the cloth wraparound locally called tapis or bahag, is wrapped around Christ’s loins in a horizontal fashion terminating in a piece of knotted cloth appliqued to the right side of the bahag. A piece of fabric is left hanging in the center of the cloth, crossing vertically down the center of the perizonium to a V-shaped point at the groin. This is an uncommon treatment to the perizonium unique to the 17th century and is a form that appears nowhere else but in 17th-century images of the crucified Christ carved in the Philippines. This treatment is attributed to the Flemish influence since much of the early art of the Philippines was derived from religious tracts printed in the Netherlands. It disappeared in the 18th century, never to return, and the v would become softer, less defined, and rounder at the apex.
(Martin I. Tinio Jr.)