Tuesday, November 23, 2021

344. A NIÑO DORMIDO FROM BOHOL FINDS A NEW HOME

THE SLEEPING CHRIST CHILD, personal collection

The image of the sleeping Jesus in sacred art is drawn from His birth in Bethlehem, where He was born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. It was St. Francis of Assisi, of course, who perpetualized that depiction when he put up a manger in a church.

NINO DORMIDO, from the Francisco Vecin Collection

NINO DORMIDO, on a repurposed doll's toy bed.

The sleeping Christ Child has been the subject of many artists through the centuries, often represented naked, consistently shown with eyes closed or half-closed, with charming poses—tiny finger in His mouth or pointing to His head,  a Hand raised in blessing,  cheek resting on a palm, with straight, bent and crossed legs. In painting and sculpture art, the sleeping baby is shown in different settings---lying on a manger, on a pastoral landscape, on a flaming heart, or adored by the Blessed Mother,

NINO DORMIDO, note the unusual crossed legs.

The hole on the back was where a stick was placed to
support the Nino Dormido while painting.

The most prized sleeping baby Jesus are made of ivory, known as “Niño Dormido”,  which today, are so precious, that they command astronomical prices in auctions, that is, if you can find one. Generally, Niño Dormidos of ivory, come in small sizes for home devotion—with average sizes ranging from 6 to 8 inches. The images are commonly displayed nude to show off the ivory, but many are dressed in gold-embroidered raiments, complete with gold or silver caps, belts and sandals studded with gems.

NINO DORMIDO, Provenance: Bohol

As equally appealing are the locally-carved wooden Niño Dormidos. Though not as expensive as ivories, these antique wooden figures of the Christ Child are much rarer to find, as the traditional Sto. Niño had a more popular following.

The Nino Dormido has its original (but flaking) encarna

This wooden Niño Dormido is one such fine example of religious folk art. It comes from the Francisco Vecin Collection, who owns many of these miniature wooden examples. It is carved from heavy wood, just a little over 7 inches, and is Bohol-made, with its original (now flaking) encarna. I acquired this from him sometime in 2006, when I was still working in Makati, and I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Vecin let it go.

A CLOSE UP VIEW, reveals open glass eyes.

This Niño Dormido is outstanding in every respect, classically carved with baby features, curly locks, and a plumpish body. Though small, his thick droopy eyelids are outfitted with glass eyes, making him look more awake than sleepy.  This Dormido is one of those rarer versions that show the Baby with crossed legs, as if to foreshadow his Crucifixion.

I decided to keep this Niño Dormido in its “as found” condition, and tried to look for an appropriate bed for it. For years, it laid on a vintage 4-poster toy wooden bed that was too short for him, and encased in an urna that I had asked a furniture shop to make, patterned after an old one.

The Nino sleeps on a piece of antique European lace,

It was only lately that I found another vintage toy bed of the right size ( but with more modern features, alas!). I covered the bed up up with antique laces, and made a flat pillow, and propped it on a new peaña that I no longer use—so that will do for the moment. The final touch is the addition of a spray of wired “lagang” flowers, hoping that it will add to the antique look that I wanted to recreate.

The Sleeping Christ Child is represented in many art forms.

It may not be authentic, but at least this Niño Dormido from Bohol has a new and better home. In the future, I will probably have a new “resting place” made, although I have not figured out if it’s going to be a daybed, a manger, a 4-poster (definitely, not a sofa!).

The Nino's bed rests on a vintage gilded peana,

And what do you think of the idea of having a silver cap and a belt? Well, let me see.. I will sleep over it!.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

343. NAZARENO OF THE DUMPSTER : Restoration Extreme

NAZARENO OF QUIAPO, AFTER ITS RESTORATION.

Since I retired, I have gone easy on buying old, slightly-flawed santos for restoration. I can sense that my santo-mania have subsided a bit, which is good, but not my compulsion for taking on santo projects. I know a good challenge when I see one.

THE VINTAGE NAZARENO, AS FOUND.

Take this dismembered Nazareno for instance, depicting the Black Nazarene of Quiapo.. I had gone to a neighborhood garage sale where I bought an antique filing cabinet. As I was talking to the homeowner, I noticed he was holding a plastic bag that contain some wooden santo body parts.

ALL WRAPPED UP FOR THE TRASH,

I knew it was a vintage Nazareno, the types that were commercially sold, perhaps, in front of churches back in the 1950s and 60s. When I asked to take a look, he said, “Oh, this is a santo that came from an altar that I already sold. It’s been broken in pieces, damaged beyond repair, so that’s why I am throwing it out,”.

“Can I have it?”, I asked. “I’ll save you a trip to the garbage dump”.

NAZARENO PARTS, cleaned and sorted.

So not only did I take the cabinet home, but also a dis-assembled naked, wigless Nazareno without a base and feet. The torso had separated from the rest of his body, and the cross, just like the figure’s fingers, was broken. The head had miraculously survived, made of escayola, typical of mass-produced midcentury Nazarenos. Likewise, the Nazareno’s tin potencias and crown of thorns were intact.

NAZARENO PARTS, glued and assembled.

When I finally had the chance to clean and assemble the pieces, I was surprised that about 90% of the figure were still there, albeit in horrible condition. I knew this Nazareno can be salvaged, but I don’t think I can do it alone, so I took it to the nearby House of Saints, whose manager, Mr. Regie Honrada is a formidable collector of images himself.

RECONSTRUCTED HEAD, BODY & CROSS

I think only he could understand why on earth I would want to restore a santo with that seemingly-hopeless condition. So, he agreed to do a sympathetic restoration of the piece to retain its integrity as an antique.

STAGING THE RECONSTRUCTED SANTO

When I came back for it after a month, Regie had added the Nazareno’s missing feet, carved a new left arm as the damaged part was beyond repair. The head and its features had also been repainted and reglued to the body. The Nazareno now rests on a plain solid wooden base, stained and varnished.

SALVAGED VESTMENTS, used in restoration.

The most wonderful part was that, Regie did not charge me a centavo for the work he did, he was just glad to help. As for Jesus’s vestments, I brought along some old, embroidered santo robes that I saved from my other restoration projects.

IN YELLOW VESTMENTS, later re-dyed,

Unfortunately, the robe and the cape were of faded yellow satin, once worn by an ivory santo. When vestment-maker Paul Candaza attempted to dress the Nazareno using them, they actually fit, but the color was really not appropriate.

OLD SANTO ABACA WIG, recurled.

So what I did was to dye the robe maroon red, using good old fashion “jobus” powder. I did the same for a small abaca wig, dying it black and re-curling it using toothpick as rollers. I did away with the cape and after vesting the image and making minor adjustments, the result was this—

Before & After PHOTOS, NAZARENO RESTORATION

I thought this unusual Nazareno restoration project was quite a success. From a santo destined for the trash, it has now become a treasure, fit to grace any altar of any home.

NAZARENO, with re-dyed maroon vestments.

NAZARENO, in re-dyed maroon vetsment.

NTRO. PADRE JESUS NAZARENO, restored

MANY THANKS TO: Mr. Reggie Honrada of House of Saints, Mr. Paul Candaza

Monday, September 6, 2021

342. CHRISTIAN LACAP: REVIVING ARTS IN THE MONASTIC TRADITION

 
THE HANDMADE MONASTIC-INSPIRED ART OF CHRISTIAN LACAP

When monasteries became centers for learning and religious training, there rose a need for houses of worship, books and devotional objects for the daily life of the community. 

SAMPLES OF OLD MONASTIC ART

Religious houses became enthusiastic patrons of the arts, and the strict commitment to manual work balanced with prayer, allowed many monks and nuns themselves to serve God as creative artists. Thus originated the so-called monastic arts created by men and women of the cloth.

AN ART CLASS UNDER A NUN, 1933

STUDENTS IN ART CLASSES, 1930s

When religious orders began putting up schools in the Philippines, art education became part of their curriculum. Most of the teachers were nuns themselves, and so they introduced many forms of devotional art to their students that require embroidery, painting, decorative paper tooling such as tole and quilling, and assemblages of sacred scenes in shadow boxes.

SAN PEDRO, APO IRO OF APALIT

FRAMED ESTAMPITAS

VIRGEN OF ANTIPOLO

Many of these artistic outputs from the 1920s thru 1950s were used to decorate home altars and rooms, showcases of skilled hands and religious fervor.  In antique shops, elaborate pieces command quite a tidy sum—like those that feature exquisite wired mother-of-pearl floral arrangements that must have required long hours of deft work.

SAN AGUSTIN

STA. ANA, FATIMA, LOURDES

The creation of such art have ceased to be with the advent of modern education, but a few artists are quietly reviving the tradition. Christian Lacap of Mabalacat is one such self-taught artist who is slowly building a portfolio of contemporized monastic art that is gaining notice among a small circle of collectors.

STA. FILOMENA

VIRGEN DE PORTA VAGA

His decorated shadow box art, 2-dimensional representations of dressed santos and biblical characters, old estampitas bordered with quilled paper, among others—are truly inspired creations, cleanly executed, neatly-laid out and beautifully composed.

VIRGEN DE LOS REMEDIOS

SAN JUDAS TADEO / SAN MARTIN DE PORRES

VIRGEN DEL CARMEN / SAN VICENTE FERRER

SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA

His creative flair began years ago as a teenager in Mabalacat when he was asked to help decorate the Divine Grace Parish Church during the annual fiesta, Holy Week and Christmas celebrations. Soon, he was also assisting in the dressing up of santos and floral decorations of carrozas.

STO. NINO DE MALOLOS

SAN LUIS GONZAGA

SAN GUILLERMO

At age 22, he landed a job in the Middle East, working at the King Salman Bin Abdulazizal Saud Palace in Jeddah for the royal household from 2009-2011. As part of the housekeeping staff, Lacap was tasked with the floral arrangements at the social events of the princess.

LA PURISIMA / VIRGEN MILAGROSA DE BADOC

LA DIVINA PASTORA / STA. CATALINA DE SIENA

After the contract ended, he stayed for 5 more years, finding employment in a flower shop in Riyadh, before working as cashier/waiter in a Filipino restaurant in Jeddah. He returned to the Philippines in 2018, and was hired to work under the City Tourism office in 2019.

LA PRESENTACION

Lacap’s  visit to the Archdiocesan Museum of San Fernando which has quite a big collection of Shadow Box Art,  introduced him to an old art form which became his fascination. He studied how to dress up flat pictures using real fabric, folded to simulate real drapes. He also observed the kinds of decorations used, which consisted mostly of paper flowers. These, he learned to make from scratch.

QUILLED ANTIQUE SCAPULAR

1ST WORK: QUILLED ESTAMPITA

It was at this point too that an acquaintance introduced him to the old art of paper quilling. By looking at examples online, Lacap copied and perfected the technique of rolling paper strips, crimping them to form shapes, and then assembling these using glue. His first two attempts of framed quilled art were sold immediately. In time, he was also asked to show his works in religious exhibits.

Through referrals and word of mouth, Lacap managed to get commissions from customers, mostly sacred art collectors. He did a lot of experimentation in the absence of materials. For example, he simulated “lagang” flowers (mother-of-pearl) using ordinary masking tape.  He has also looked into the use of feathers, flowers made of strung beads, and found objects such as twigs, embroidery scraps, old metal halos, and even human hair! 

    RETOOLED LEAVES & PAPER FLOWERS

MASKING TAPE FLOWERS

By mixing and combining quilling, fabric manipulation, appliquing and unique floral decorating, he could transform a flat base paper figure in one or two weeks, into a treasured work of art, worthy to be a museum piece. In the absence of old holy pictures to frame, he uses pictures and prints from old religious programs, calendars, and similar sources. The antique frames are mostly provided by his patrons. His basic tools are the usual glue gun, paper, floral tape, fabrics, trimmings--and lots of patience.

STO, NINO DE MALOLOS

VIRGEN DE CANDELARIA

SAN JOSE

Recently resigned from his government job,  Lacap has decided to pursue his creative passion full-time. At the moment, he is still finishing some commissioned works, and he hopes to open his on-line FB-based small sacred art business soon, under the name “ARTE SAGRADA”.

MINIATURE STO. NINO

SAN PEDRO / STO. NINO

On this spread are some of the works completed by Christian Lacap, who, in his own special way, without formal training and background in fine arts,  is reviving the vanishing tradition of monasteries from centuries past.

CREDITS: ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN LACAP

For inquiries, contact: https://www.facebook.com/xtian.lacap.5