Wednesday, February 8, 2012



About 6 years ago, I attended a special auction of the Bayanihan Collectors at the Loft, in Rockwell, only because it was walking distance from my place. It was late in the afternoon and the auction was about to end.

I quickly scanned the bourse tables and found this rare mini-calandra with a terra-cotta Christ. It was a bit-run down, but I saw it had promise—the carvings on the base were very detailed, and most of the calandra parts were intact, including the etched glass panels and the relief carvings on the trapezoidal cover.

The 8 inch Christ itself is very unusual because it is made from terra cotta and wood. The catafalque on which it rested even had its original satin cover. The base has a drapery pattern and is trimmed with floral carvings, now incomplete.

The dealer wasn’t even there when I inquired about the piece; I had to talk to him on the phone. When he told me of the price of the calandra, I thought it was reasonable enough, but I wasn’t into these things back then.

I let it go but I kept the business card of dealer Albert Dealino and promised to visit his place. Flash forward, early 2007. While I was cleaning my files, I found Abet’s card and this time, I checked if his contact number was still valid—it was! I had to reintroduce myself to him and then asked if I could visit his Fairview warehouse.

He agreed and so we set up a meeting on one rainy Sunday afternoon. It was a long drive to north Fairview but I found his home-cum-warehouse which was crammed with old things of all sort. It was then that I asked him about the calandra that I saw years ago in Rockwell. Surprisingly, he told me it went unsold and was still available. After a few minutes, he took it out and I was reacquainted once more with the object of desire that I thought had gotten away.

To make the story short, I got the piece at a discount and carted it home with the intention of having it restored to its former glory. Instinctively, I thought of assigning the work to Mr. Tom Joven, the accomplished ecclesiastical artist from Bacolor, whose background in furniture, I thought, would be valuable in a project that requires carpentry, carving and expert finishing.

Sure enough, when I brought the piece to him, his sharp eye noticed something amiss with the mini-calandra and its base. Later, he called me to say he believed that the calandra used to have a separate base—to which it was attached, at some point in time. He asked my approval if he could separate the calandra from its base; a new base will be made for it while the separated carved base can serve as a display stand for it or for some other santo or urna. A few months after, the calandra looked like this with its new, simplified base.

A few more weeks would elapsed before the calandra could be finished and primed for painting. Note the added floral trims, the handsome Grecian columns on the four corners and the arches to frame the four glass paneled sides of the calandra.

When Tom removed the catafalque that had been ‘upholstered’ with red satin, he found out that the sides were trimmed with fine gold embroidery in repeating trefoil pattern that have tarnished with age.

Work on the base proved to be faster. The floral carvings around the perimeter of the base were completed and then painted and gilded.

Finally, just this weekend, after a year of intense restoration, my mini-calandra project was finally finished. It was painted in black and with faux kamagong streaks. The floral trims, the columns, the serrated edgings and the relief carvings were all gold-leafed.

All it needs is a small agnus dei (Lamb of God) figure to sit on top of the calandra. Unfortunately, the old bubble glass panels were too fragile to be reused; new glass had to be ordered. 

Even then, with or without the base, the completed mini-calandra looked exceptionally beautiful.

As to the terra cotta Cristo, a nephew of mine who has a special interest in European ecclesiastical art noticed its similarity to the Cristo Yacente of the Hermandad del Sto. Entierro in Spain.

He also told me that what I have is certainly of European origin as terra cotta figures are made all over Europe like in Italy and Spain. I had thought of housing a smaller ivory Sto. Entierro for this calandra, but because of these inputs, I have decided to retain this original Cristo.

I am in the process of restoring it myself (I don’t know of any who does clay restoration!), but I have decently managed to put the broken parts together using tacky glue, filling the spaces with epoxy clay which I discovered recently. 

I have also succeeded in cleaning it using good, old dependable Wipe-Out. Its dirty brown complexion has given way to a pinkish hue, a dramatic change. It still remains to be seen if I have a future as a santo-restorer.

The hardest part of the restoration is over--a mourning shroud, a pillow and perhaps a small crown of thorns and potencias are all that the calandra needs as finishing touches. 

Jesus’s resurrection took awhile to happen---over a year for the restoration alone and a total of 6 years to bring home a treasure that I now consider one of my most valuable finds.

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