Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Whether online or in antique shops, the most common religious antiques one finds for sale are crucifixes. Folk art crosses are fixtures in almost all antique fairs I’ve been to, characterized by plain wooden crosses and misshapen Christ figures. More sought after are the classically done tabletop crucifixes, with finely carved wooden Christs and with crosses trimmed with metal fittings.

Other than ivory crucifixes, the prices of such pieces have remained stable—in the range of about Php 7K- Php 15K. The demand is not as high as for free-standing santo as, maybe, for a collector, one good crucifix is enough.

I, myself, am not much of a crucifix fan, but when I see an outstanding example, I take a second look. Just like this example, recently purchased from my favourite antique dealer.

It came in a rather, shabby condition—dirty, dust-coated, with the corpus about to be detached from its arms. 

The dealer told me that the cross finials were of silver, but I couldn’t be too sure—they were blackened with age. So were the potencias and the crown of Christ too, which remained miraculously intact, all these years.

Despite these flaws, the carving of the figure was superb, right down to the gracefully draped loincloth of Christ, his taut and lean body, the elongated arms and hands (with a few missing fingers)and the fine strands of Jesus’long hair.

But what sold me was the haunting facial, pain-filled expression of Christ, made even more lifelikeby by his glassy stare. His mouth was open in anguish. How the carver managed to put such intense emotion into that small wooden face, I will never know.

For 3 days, I set about cleaning the crucifix, using Wipe Out and lots of cotton buds. More challenging was restoring the shine of the silver finials, which had ingrained dirt all over. At least two hours of metal polishing and dirt-scraping did the trick.

The corpus itself was easy to clean. After Wipe-Out, I lightly coated the body with brown shoe polish, which further deepened the “Nazareno”color of Christ and added a nice sheen to the lines.

The crucifix came with a damaged replacement base, but I had an unused stone base that was more appropriate to the piece. The mound was a bit small though, and not very stable, but it would have to do, in the meantime.

My dealer, by the way, also told me that the original owner of the crucifix claimed that the piece was the handiwork of Maximo Vicente’s talyer. You always take these revelations with a grain of salt, but regardless, this crucifix ranks as another one of my most wonderful finds, you agree?

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