When the above picture of a dogless San Roque was sent to me by a Pampanga dealer, I was impressed by the overall carving style and uncommon representation of this pilgrim saint. The santo is dressed like a peregrine (pilgrim), with a cross carved in relief on his left chest area.
He is shown lifting the hem of his brown vestments, a finger pointing at the wound on his thigh (more common folk representations show the wound on his knee).
The hatted figure holds an original staff, with a flask tied to the tip.
The face of San Roque is lean and long, his face dour,almost devoid of expression. His glass eyes were of the imported variety, commonly referred to as ”ojos de Europa”, which are in fact, doll eyes that were commercially produced in Europe since the 19th c.
Keeping the saint company is an expressionless Angel in white holding a tablet with this inscription: “Los que fueron heridos de peste el favour de Roque alcanzaran salud” (Those wounded by the plague, (ask) the favor of St. Roch to attain health) This is in reference to his ministry of the sick during a pestilence in which he himself was stricken with the deadly disease.
San Roque stands on a damaged base, which has lost much of its paint. Also missing is San Roque’s faithful dog, who ministered to him when he became ill himself, by bringing him bread daily.
I would date this incomplete tableau to the 1950s and I thought it’s worth acquiring and restoring. The size alone—24 inches—is highly desirable. The best thing about this San Roque was its price, and when I personally saw it, I was convinced even more that I have found a truly worthy piece.
I personally undertook the cleaning of the santo and the angel, which I easily detached from the base. The base immediately went to a local painter who simply re-painted it with a marbleized effect.
The most challenging part was finding a replacement dog. Weeks before I saw this San Roque, I remembered seeing a dog being sold separately in one of the shops at Philtrade. I had made an offer for it, which the Seller did not accept.
I thought that the dog had the right proportions to match my San Roque. I returned to Philtrade and located the shop—and thank my lucky stars, the wooden dog with a whole bread in its mouth was still there! I made another offer, and this time, the Seller agreed to sell me the dog.
Soon as the base arrived, I assembled and staged the different pieces, using wooden pegs. Everything fell into place, moreso when I positioned the dog by his master’s side—it was perfect fit. My San Roque tableau is finally complete.