Thursday, May 10, 2007

I know they're scary, but...

A conversation from long ago...

D-in-SanFran: "Can you get me one of those Santos dolls when you go back home to the Philippines?"

Republic of Candy: "No, they scare me."

An interesting piece, pictured below, is called the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. On display for a time at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the accompanying plaque reads, Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, 18th century Hispano-Philippine Ivory, partly polychromed and gilded, with glass eyes and silver halo; H. 10 in. (15.4 cm). Gift of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964 (64.164.243). Chinese ivory carvers in the Philippines and on the mainland as well produced numerous religious figures for export to Spain and the Americas via the Manila Galleon route. Although conforming to the iconography of the Catholic church (such as the pose of this Virgin), their Asian origin is usually unmistakable in their physiognomies as well as the style of their drapery.

From Preserving Saints: Devotional Art of the Santero, by Alex Castro, Center for Kapampangan Studies (my dad's province):

Santeros are artists who carve and paint santos, images of saints, reflecting one of the oldest living traditions of religious devotion practiced by Hispanic Americans. Carving santos is an enduring Latino tradition from Central and South America, the American Southwest, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Spain.

When Spanish missionaries came to Christianize [the Philippine islands], they brought with them religious pictures and images of saints that became potent instruments of evangelization. These artful images were used to demonstrate the power of the new religion over paganism...soon, carved "santos" were replacing primative anitos in home altars, becoming the new focus of household devotion. Thus began a tradition of santo-making in the country-and from Manila to Pampanga, local santeros practiced their craft by carving thousands of holy images copied from estampitas and styled by their imagination.

In the Philippines, Alex Castro writes, "Santo-collecting came into vogue in the 1930's, although earlier than that Trinidad Pardo de Tavera raised eyebrows when he started using santos as decorative accents for his house rather than for their originally intended purpose.... The antique trade boom in the 1960's-1970's hastened the demolition of hundreds of church altars and generated criminal syndicates, sometimes in cahoots with antique traders. Many a precious santo has been lost in this unscrupulous fashion, like the 1984 disappearance of Cavite's Soledad de Porta Vaga."

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