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

Detail of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Detail of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

1re moitié du XVIIIe siècle, ivoire

In the absence of accurate dates for these works, dating is often carried out by stylistic comparison. The Virgins presumed to be the most ancient (end of 16th century – start of 17th century) are marked with a great hieratism and plain treatment: flat-lying clothes, cylindrical bodies. As a general rule, these sculptures are extremely different from their metropolitan prototypes. In effect, they are much more rigid in their shapes and less expressive in their faces than the contemporary models of the Renaissance.

Here, the front of the body is softened by the ample movement of the clothes, which are tied at the front. The fine decoration on her cloak and the precise detail of her jewellery make this sculpture a good example of the refinement of this Goan art.

This Virgin has two typical characteristics of Goan sculpture: the mantle, worn by some Virgins, which forms a large bow at the front and which falls to the sides, and the treatment of the hair which falls in zigzags.