Monday, July 15, 2013

156. LA INMACULADA: The Conception of a Beautiful Restoration

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. The image of the Immaculate Conception, 28" tall (with halo) , as restored by Mr. Thom Joven.

One of my best santo finds of the year began with a search on the country’s leading online buy-and-sell site: There, I found a vintage wooden San Jose with ivory mask and hands, a reasonably-priced piece that I quickly acquired.

It turned out that this was just the tip of the iceberg, for the collector-seller, after making his acquaintance, led me next to his antique santo treasures that he was sadly unloading for deep, personal reasons.

He directed me to his personal online site and I was immediately drawn to an exquisite 24 inch carved Immaculate Conception, a three-dimensional copy of Bartolome Murillo’s famous painting of the Blessed Virgin.

It was an almost accurate rendering of the iconic piece—right down to the tilted head of the Virgin, her crossed hands with delicately carved fingers, standing on a cloud based from which protruded the horns of a crescent moon and three small cherubims.

Amazing too, was the coloring of the figure—the encarna is in good condition as well, retaining its warm, pinkish hue despite scruffs and grime.

The antique Virgin was wonderfully preserved with normal wear associated with age, from its 12 star halo, jusi wig, right down to its satin vestments that were accentuated with simple gold embroidery.
In contrast to the fine carve figure, the vestments were rather plain, using synthetic gold colored thread and plastic sequins.

Overall, however, this Imaculada was a stunning, expressive piece—a museum quality santa—and best of all, it was available! I did not even bother negotiating with the seller, knowing that I would be helping him with his predicament.

At the same time, I was grateful too, for the trust that has been given to me, for having been chosen to continue caring for their family heirloom; after all, there were many interested buyers waiting in the wings.

When it was time for me to have Inmaculada restored, I had only one choice for this project which calls for a meticulous eye, skilled hands and an understanding of period styles: the master ecclesiastical artist, Thom Joven.

True, I wanted to have the image restored, but I also want the image to retain its aura of antiquity s, which to me, is the true test of effective restoration.

Fortunately, Thom shared this valid restoration concept, and he agreed to take on this project which took all of 8 months—long by any standard, but certainly worth the wait as the results show.

Much of the restoration involved cleaning the image, patiently done through cleaning it inch-by-inch with a mild cleaning cream.

Meanwhile, the vestments were recreated using old satin fabric stock, and the embroidery was traced and painstakingly copied too, using real gold thread, sequins and gold trims.

The missing parts of the carved cherubs on the base were replaced and the damaged spots were painted over, using the same marbleized paint effects.

The fragile wig was also replaced, replicating not only the length but also the drop of the curls!

Finally, the metalwork was buffed and replated. By the middle of July, it was time to bring the restored Inmaculada Concepcion home.

When I beheld it, she was such a beautiful sight. The draped vestment was perfect in every aspect—from the accurately copied embroidery, to such details such as the red underfabric lining of the cape.


The Virgin looked authentically antique from top to bottom, remaining true to the original, and to the concept of what true restoration should be.

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