Parian Workshops in Manila
This statue of the Madonna and Child is carved from one piece of ivory and, at first glance, gives the impression of a stiff Romanesque statue. The iconography, however, is typical of the late 17th century and shows the Virgin carrying the Child Jesus with her left hand and holding its foot with her right. The Niño once held an orb surmounted by an ivory cross in its left hand and had its right hand raised in blessing, but constant rubbing thorough the centuries, however, have abraded both hands. The oriental face of the Virgin indicate that its carver was a Chinese artisan who was definitely based in the Parian in Manila. The Virgin’s face is framed by wavy tresses that fall on her shoulders and halfway down the back. The eyes of both the Virgin and Child were originally painted on the ivory, but the paint has worn off.
The Virgin is clothed in a round-necked tunic and a long cloak that is draped over the statue’s left arm, where it falls in multiple folds. The cloak goes over her shoulders and its right corner is brought under the right arm to form graceful folds below the belt, where its end is tucked in at the left side of the waist. The cloak is tucked in at the back in a large suksuk, presumably to prevent it from sliding and dragging at the back. This dorsal tuck is something that one often sees in contemporary solid ivory statues of the Virgin Mary and is a unique feature found only in Philippine ivories. The right foot of the Virgin is peeping out of her tunic in typical Philippine pose.
The Niño wears a long-sleeved mameluco, an ankle-length tunic that was the standard wear of infants in Europe and the Philippines from the 16th century until the early 20th century. It took its name from the long robes worn by the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Niño’s tunic is belted at the waist.
The statue stands on a base of Chinese-style clouds carved in the so-called ‘ensaymada’ scrollform. Half-moon crescents were originally attached to the cloud base, but these have since disappeared, and only the holes where they were inserted indicate their former presence. The ivory rests on a carved base of baticuling wood carved with acanthus leaves and completely gilded.
-Martin I. Tinio, Jr.