Sunday, December 22, 2013


 (Excerpts from Chapter 2, The Arts of the Philippines 1521-1957, ed. By Winfield Scott Smith, Manila, 1958. Published by Associated Publishers, Inc. , p. 9, 14, 15). 

SAN ANTONIO. Ivory polychromed and gilded. Philippine-Chinese school of the 18th century. Unsuual in that the figure is rendered in ivory, harking back to an earlier tradition. The ivory has been enriched with paint and gold leaf (F. Zobel Collection). 

 SAN JOSE. The head and hands were usually fashioned of ivory while the body was a wooden structure under the heavily embroidered robes. Often, human hair was used and frequently, gold, silver and previous jewels were used with the embroidery. (Miss Adelaida Paterno Collection). 

NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL ROSARIO. An execellent example of highly finished and elaborately conceived images popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and still treasured as family heirlooms. (Miss Adelaida Paterno Collection). 

 SAN ANTONIO. Ivory figurine clothes in robes embroidered with prescious metals. The hair is real. Probably late 18th or early 19th century. . (Miss Adelaida Paterno Collection).

A word should be said about sculpture in ivory. Unlike wooden sculpture, large numbers of old ivory have survived to our day. Their survival was caused, not only by their small size, but by the intrinsic value of the material involved. On the whole, the ivory statuettes lack the vigor of their wooden brethren. Ivory lends itself to technical virtuosity, distracting to the spectator and apparently irresistible to the ordinary craftsman. The worst examples replace expression with simple enumeration. They become mere catalogues, of eyebrows, toe nails, buckles and glass eyes with nothing in particular to hold them together as artistic statements.

The craftsmen who carved them were perhaps too skilful and copied their models over-conscientiously, putting manual dexterity over imagination. As forms of artistic expression, the majority of these figurines are of little artistic and historical value, though they are pleasant enough in their Victorian quaintness, especially when furnished with glass eyes, real hair and elaborately embroidered robes that hide, more often than not, a wooden body.

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