This ivory head of the Virgin Mary has a face that is somewhat Europeanized, but the bulging eyelids, which gives it a Philippine air, also
gives an indication of the age of the piece. Bulging eyes, when extremely prominent, indicate a 17th century date of manufacture, while slightly
bulging eyelids, like the one shown here, are typical of those faces carved in the late 18th or early 19th centuries.
Ivory santos were one of the major luxury items being exported from Manila to Acapulco in Mexico during the entire period of the Galleon Trade. They were in great demand in Mexico, where wills of the major families are replete with numerous ivory images, all described as ‘obra Filipina’ or Philippine-made. Numerous pieces also made their way across Mexico along the Camino de China to Vera Cruz on the Atlantic Coast,
where they were shipped to Cadiz in Spain. Many were brought into the Peninsula by officials and monks returning after their tour of duty in the
colony, but others were sent as trade goods.
-Martin I. Tinio, Jr