Sunday, September 16, 2012

123. VIRGEN DEL ROSARIO: A Patron Recovered, A Devotion Restored

For many years now, I have been looking for an affordable antique Nstra. Sra. Del Rosario ivory; we have long considered the Virgin of the Holy Rosary as our family patron. After all, my mother’s surname was Del Rosario, and as a young woman growing up in Angeles, she would pay homage to Our Lady at the ancient Sto. Rosario Church.

When my mother passed away in 2009, it became even more imperative to look for a Del Rosario image. Sometime in December 2009, I texted a free-lance dealer on a whim, asking if he had old ivories for sale. Sure enough, he texted back—he had one, he said—a Virgen del Rosario. I didn’ expect him to respond too soon, as I realized that my antiquing budget had been stretched too far with my almost-weekly acquisitions of vintage paintings, processional images (a pair!) and other sacred art.

But when he sent me an MMS photo of the antique image, I was taken by the simple yet beautiful qualities of the image, despite its flaws. Obviously, this is not a top quality image—the carving shows that: the facial features are not well defined and the fingers are of the usual “tinidor” style, associated with folk images. But the ivory parts of this Virgen del Rosario are complete, from the heads and hands of the Virgin to those of the Child Jesus. It is becoming increasingly rare to find complete Del Rosarios these days. Often,  antique shops separate the Virgin from Jesus, which are then sold individually.

A closer look at the images reveal that the bodies are without any damage and the original gilded base, though ridden with holes, remains intact. While the images still have their original human hair cabelleras (wigs), they have lost their glass eyes.

The vestments, with simple and sparse gold embroidery,  have also survived,  but I doubt if the tattered clothes can still be salvaged. I would be crazy if I passed up this Del Rosario, and so, after a short wheeling-and-dealing, the seller agreed to my offer and came rushing to my office to personally deliver the antique Mother and Child santo.

After Christmas, I came a –calling once more on Dr. Raffy Lopez, my suki restorer. He still had to finish my 3 santo projects with him, and here I am again with yet another one. Already harassed with vestment orders for the approaching Sto. Niño Malolos Exhibit on January 24, Dr. Raffy nevertheless took on my usual “no-rush” Del Rosario project.

Two and a half weeks after, I got a text that the Virgen del Rosario  was ready for pick up. Now, that was fast! As always, the results were amazing. Now outfitted with glass eyes, daubed with color and wearing new wigs (I had wanted to save the original frizzy human hair wigs  on the images as they gave them a real antique look, but alas, they had become too brittle to be re-used), the ivory faces looked more expressive.

Although we initially agreed on a blue and pink ensemble--a quick examination of the faded vestments actually showed her cape to be blue—I eventually opted for a cream and gold ensemble. Besides, I already had an Immaculate Conception vested with the same color scheme.

The vestment design was based on some antique metallic embroidery I had long ago saved from an a lost Del Carmen image. The rosette and trefoil patterns were re-assembled on the front of the robe and the cape, supplemented with new embroidery.

As I was absolutely clueless about  crowns and halos, I left the choice of metalworks to Dr. Lopez, who commissioned his platero, Dodong Azares, to make identical gold plated brass crowns.

A few before and after photos are shown here, to give you an idea of the extent of restoration done on the Virgin:

Thus restored, our antique Virgin del Rosario is housed inside a 20 in. made-in-Spain virina purchased from ebay, with a customized base provided by Dr. Lopez. 

Maybe I’ll add a mini-rosary and a scepter later, but for now, I consider this project completed.

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