A multi-racial pantheon in Portuguese India

From the start of the Portuguese colonisation in the 16th century, the production of religious images made from ivory developed in this "Rome of the East" that was Goa.  This production could be described as proto-industry due to its size.   In effect, we can only be surprised by the abundance of these “Indo-Portuguese” representations which can be found today in museums, at antique dealers and in auction rooms, in Portugal, of course, but also throughout Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil and Mexico.  But what do we understand these Indo-Portuguese images to be? Bernardo Ferrão de Tavares e Távora, one of the first people to have studied them, gave the following definition: "They are sculptures made in Asia by indigenous craftsmen, initially under the aegis of the Portuguese missions, copying Western designs, taking inspiration from them or recreating them with their own variations”. This lead to the creation of multi-racial objects which tell the story of the meeting of two worlds – the Western world and the Asian world.

  • The Good Shepherd

  • Detail of a good shepherd pedestal

  • Detail of a goos shepherd figure

  • The back of the goos shepherd figure

  • Detail of the base of a good shepherd figure

  • The good shepherd

    The good shepherd

  • Two good shepherds

  • Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

  • Detail of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

  • Virgin and Child

  • Virgin of the Immaculta Conception

  • Praying Saint

  • Virgin

  • Virgin and Child

  • Blessing Jesus

  • Baby Jesus, Savior of the World

  • Baby Jesus with skull

  • Baby Jesus

  • Baby Jesus in his bed

  • Christ on the Cross

  • Detail of the Christ on the Cross

  • Detail of Christ from the back

  • Saint Sebastian

  • Detail of Saint Sebastian

  • Saint Francis of Assisi

  • Saint Anthony of Padua

  • Two Pilgrim Saints

  • Small Couple

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

1re moitié du XVIIIe siècle, ivoire, H : 16,5 cm, L : 5 cm

The cult of Marian, very important in Portugal from the Middle Ages, continued to develop during the 16th century. It is noted that amongst the different iconographic groups, that of the Virgin Mary was certainly the most represented in Goa, and also the most varied. There are numerous devotions: Virgin and Child, Virgin in Majesty, Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.

However, certain of these seem to have been favoured, such as the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. This theme, which appeared at the end of the 15th century, was given the place of honour by the Counter-Reform of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Attacked by the Reforms which destroyed its statues, the artistic representations of the Immaculate Conception multiplied during the 17th century, giving it its definitive style. The Virgin generally appears descending from the sky, her eyes lowered, her hands together, sitting on a crescent moon and surrounded by a multitude of cherubs. To recall her victory over the original sin, her feet are crushing the head of a snake, a metaphor for the devil. She sometimes holds the rosary, a symbol of prayer, but also that which the Reforms denounced as an invention of Satan.