Philippines, early 17th century With long hair flowing across her shoulders and back, clad in a robe naturalistically draped to her feet and bound at her waist, and a mantle patterned with rhombi tucked in at the back, in her right hand she holds a rosary, her fingers tenderly supporting The Child's foot as he sits in her left arm, dressed in a tunic and displaying the gesture of blessing. 21 3/8 in. (53.4 cm) high
In step with burgeoning global sea routes linking Asia and Europe in the 16th and 17th century, many migrants from the South Chinese province of Fujian developed active trade links with Spanish settlers established in the Philippines. Specifically, the Fujianese community in Manila catered to a demand for religious images from Spanish missionaries, who brought their own prints and sculptures to Manila, and had them reproduced by local artisans. Chief among the surviving body of works is the figure of the Virgin and Child, which appears to have found a keen local audience.
This is a fine example of the development of the Virgin and Child figure into a hybrid Hispano-Philippine style. The pose and composition is similar to ivories produced in Seville (see Marcos, La escultura barroca de marfil en España, Madrid, 1984, no. 445), although here no mantle covers the Virgin's head. The oval face and half-closed eyelids, the alternating rhombi and oval pattern on the neckline and detailing at the hem of the sleeves, along with the schematic folds of the robe gathered together at the back of the figure, are typical of early 17th century carvings in the Philippines, predating the introduction of the baroque style. Compared to a similar example published in Marcos Ivories from the far eastern provinces of Spain and Portugal, Monterrey, 1997, no. 14, the present lot displays finer detailing in the robes and greater naturalism in the Virgin's flowing hair.
Ivory figures produced in the Philippines not only catered to local taste, but were also transported across oceans to adorn Latin American and Spanish altars. The close connection between Fujianese coastal cities and Manila also suggests a transmission of style from the Philippines to China, where carvers adopted the medium of ivory to carve iconographically similar forms of Guanyin for the domestic market - an example of which is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and illustrated amongst similar figures at the British Museum and private collections in The Oriental Ceramic Society and The British Museum, Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing London, 1984, no. 20, and Gao Meiqing, Chinese Ivories from the Kwan Collection, Hong Kong, 1990. Highly influential, the Hispano-Philippine style encapsulates early interactions between Europe and Southeast Asia.
Bonhams would like to thank Julie Bellemare for her assistance in cataloging this lot.
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