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Statuette - St Mary Magdelene

St Mary Magdelene

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Goa (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ivory statuette of the reclining St Mary Magdalene was made in about 1650 in Goa. This presumably originally formed part of an unusually large Good Shepherd group. Goa was the second base in India to be established by the Portuguese, having been conquered by Alfonso de Albuquerque (about 1453-1515) during the reign of Manuel I of Portugal initially in 1510, and then reconquered in 1512. Portugal was interested first and foremost in trade, and the discovery of India was motivated by a desire to dominate trade-routes. But the Christian settlers and missionaries were also keen to convert the native populace to Christianity, and religious images in ivory were commissioned to assist in this. Some were exported to Europe, but others evidently remained and were used for evangelical purposes. From the sixteenth century onwards, the four main missionary Orders (Augustinians, Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans) built churches and aimed to convert the inhabitants of India. Despite the control of the Church over subject matter, the iconography of Indian art also permeated Christian ivories; the most obvious and at the same time strangest instance of this is the 'Mount of the Good Shepherd'. This is a common subject in Indo-Portuguese ivories, and seems to be unique to Goa. Although the precise parallels and/or sources in India are uncertain, this distinctive composition recurs again and again in Goan ivories, and the combination of the Christ Child in the guise of the shepherd with saints, a fountain, vegetation and animals suggest the richness of the natural world, in conjunction with Christian imagery.

Physical description

Statuette of the Saint St Mary Magdalene; she reclines on her right side, leaning her right cheek against her right palm, reading a book, to which she points with her left hand.

Place of Origin

Goa (made)


ca. 1650 (made)



Materials and Techniques



Length: 11.2 cm, Height: 4.8 cm

Object history note

This figure must have originally formed part of a Mount of the Good Shepherd group.

Descriptive line

Statuette, ivory, 'St Mary Magdelene', Indo-Portuguese (Goa), ca. 1650

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1929, Part II, p. 114
p. 372
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, p. 372, cat. no. 366



Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Christianity; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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