From the Collection of Federico de Vera: Head of the Virgin
Great care and artistry went into the creation of this carved and painted ivory head of the Virgin Mary. It was once part of an exceptionally oversized santos figure from the early 20th-century Philippines. Being larger than most santos—standing about four feet in height—this statuary is also more lavishly decorated. Her ivory skin has been tinted with a rose-colored flush, her lips painted pink, and long lashes made from boar’s hair have been applied to the lids of her shadowed glass eyes. Although her hairline is painted, she would have worn a wig of long tresses fashioned from human hair or corn silk.
A figure of this size, requiring a substantially large ivory tusk, must have been very costly to make. The repair on her neck, which was likely at one point hidden by a high-necked dress collar, possibly indicates an irregularity in the ivory remedied by a patch carved from another piece. The Virgin’s ears are pierced, and her earrings, in likeness to the originals, were designed using gold beads from an antique Philippine tamborin necklace. The Virgin is also adorned with a 19th-century engraved silver crown—originally made for a similar santos figure—which is embellished with brilliant rose-cut diamonds, creating a sparkling corona.
Federico de Vera is the proprietor of de Vera, a gallery of jewelry, art, and objects in New York City.
Image: Photography by Poul Ober, courtesy de Vera.