Tuesday, February 25, 2014

186. CRISTO MENINO: Steward of All Creation

CHRIST ON A HILL. A Portuguese-made Cristo Menino, made from wood and white clay, mounted on a hill with niches containing small animals, like a rabbit, birds, sheep. Glass eyes, original clothes. 10 in., including the base.19th c., Personal Collection.

When I was new to ebay some 10 years ago, I would occasionally find small antique figures of the Christ Child standing on top of a mound, representing a hill, on which small earthen animals like lambs would rest. I thought the figure represented the Christ Child as a Good Shepherd, but then I wold find examples with other animal forms. “Cristo Menino”, as the South American ebay sellers called them, were soon my objects of desire, and I was determined to get myself an example.

 The cost of shipping from South America (I was dealing with a Uruguayan seller) doubled the cost of the Cristo Menino I was eyeing, so sadly, I had to momentarily give up my quest for this unusual representation of the Christ Child—until another one surfaced for sale in the U.S. I quickly bidded on it, won the santo, and was sent to a N.J. address, and finally to me, thank God for my sister’s regular balikbayan box shipments.

This 8 inch Cristo Menino, which originated from Portugal, had much more detail for its size. It was made from a combination of white terracotta and wood, common materials used in Europe.

The figures was sculpted in the round and the features were painted,with tiny glass inserts for eyes. The clenched left hand once held a staff, now missing, while the other arm, which had broken, was raised in the act of benediction.

Though it had missing pieces and broken parts, it had retained its original vestment—from its lacey undergarment, his pantaloons. to the dress, which was finely embroidered with colourful floral motifs on the bodice and on the flouncy skirt.

A cincture of gold thread with metallic tassels completed the Nino’s outfit.

Also remarkable was the little mound where the Nino’s feet were pegged—it had little niches placed around it, each with a small, sculpted clay animals inside.

There were obviously some missing figures, but the rabbit, a pair of sheep, a pigeon and a duck, were intact.

 It was fairly easy for me to restore this wonderful Cristo Menino—the broken arm was repaired using epoxy clay. The missing fingers will have to be restored at a later time.

Parts of the undergarment were crumbling and beyond repair—like the tunic of tulle, so I just kept what was salvageable—in this case, the pantaloons.

Years after I acquired my Cristo Menino, on January 2014 to be exact, it was lent for a San Beda exhibit of Santo Niños, entitled, Fides: The Sto. Nino and the Value of Faith,  curated by Dino Carlo Santos. There, in his little urna, my Cristo Menino stood on his little mound, presiding over a menagerie of God’s creatures, the Steward of All Creation.

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