Thursday, May 9, 2013

148. HAIL MARY! : An Immaculate Restoration

This old ivory santa representing the Immaculate Conception was part of a cache of antique ivories offered at a Quezon City shop. It had the worst condition of the lot-- wigless, eyeless, with a wire armature left arm about to fall and a soiled underdress. The metalworks and the vestment were all missing.

My attention was actually drawn to a more complete ivory San Jose housed inside a broken virina, and had, in fact, made up my mind to buy it.

But when the dealer offered to throw in the other santa for just a bit more, I accepted the offer and came home with not just one, but two antique ivories.

True to its appellation as “La Purisima Concepcion”, the figure was carved simply, the hands in the folksy “tinidor” style. The face has distinct Chinese features, with a calm and pleasing expression.

It is fortunate that she has retained her cloud peaña, set on a boxy base, which dates this possibly to the second decade of the 20th century.

After having personally cleaned the image and fixed its sagging arm, I sent it off for restoration, a process that would take a little over a month. My project brief included restoring the eyes of the santo and its metalworks—to be kept as simple as possible, and also rewigging her with jusi hair.

The gold-embroidered dress was to be kept simple too, with a minimum of draping and tucking. A light satin blue cape and the lightest blush of pink satin made up her vestments.

 La Purisima Concepcion finally came home this weekend, looking so different than when I found her perched on a shop table just a few months ago.

I am glad I got her, as she looks beautifullys blessed and full of grace once more.


  1. what a big transformation! do you think the head is older than the base did that style of carving survive well into the turn of the century?

  2. The Sino style apparently was still popular in those later years. I inspected the image and it looked untampered. Even today, modern ivory carvers put those neck rings in the carving of new santos to achieve that old-fashioned feel.