The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (Tota Pulchra); with St John the Baptist, St Francis of Assisi, St John the Evangelist and St Anthony of Padua

Triptych
ca. 1600 - ca. 1620 (made)
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (Tota Pulchra); with St John the Baptist, St Francis of Assisi, St John the Evangelist and St Anthony of Padua thumbnail 1
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (Tota Pulchra); with St John the Baptist, St Francis of Assisi, St John the Evangelist and St Anthony of Padua thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Ivory was popular as a material for religious subjects, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries. Spanish and Portuguese patrons imported ivories carved with Christian imagery from their territories overseas, such as the Philippines, Mexico and Goa. German and Netherlandish artists were renowned for their dexterity in ivory carving. Their reliefs are masterpieces of composition and virtuosity. This small, portable triptych was made for devotional purposes. Its two side wings were hinged so they could close over the central relief.

The subject, known as "Tota Pulchra", is derived from images of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin is surrounded by appropriate symbols. The wings of this miniature triptych depict St. John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist (above), and St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua (below). The frame is distinctively Chinese. Similar reliefs were carved in Canton and in the Philippines by Chinese sculptors for the Spanish market.

A relief close in style and subject, similarly showing the Tota Pulchra, was on board the Santa Margarita, a Manila galleon bound for Acapulco, which was wrecked in 1601, some of whose cargo was excavated from the Pacific Ocean in 2006 by Jack Harbeston and IOTA Partners. The date of the Santa Margarita wreck implies that the subject was being carved in this format in 1600, and the form is likely to have continued in the following years, giving an approximate date span for the present piece.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Triptych
  • Triptych
  • Triptych
Materials and Techniques
Carved ivory
Brief Description
Triptych, ivory, 'The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception' ('Tota Pulchra'), Hispano-filipino or Chinese, ca. 1600-1620
Physical Description
Ivory triptych; in the centre, the Assumption of the Virgin surrounded by emblematical devices and label scrolls on which are written Latin inscriptions being encomniastic liturgical epithets; on the wings, St John the Baptist, St Francis of Assisi, St John the Evangelist and St Anthony of Padua. The tops of all three wings are scalloped, and the edges moulded. Inscriptions are on the scrolls.
Dimensions
  • Height: 14.6cm
  • Open width: 18cm
  • Of central panel width: 8.8cm
  • Of left panel width: 4.4cm
  • Of right panel width: 4.4cm
Content description
The triptych shows the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin in the central panel and on the wings the standing figures of St John the Baptist, St Francis of Assisi, St John the Evangelist and St Anthony of Padua.
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'ELECTA VT SOL' (on the left panel; under the sun)
  • 'PORTA CAELI' (left panel; under the temple)
  • 'SICVT LILIVM' (left panel; under the lily)
  • 'SPECVLVM SIN' (left panel; under the mirror)
  • 'IVTEVSA VARGA' (left panel; under the vessel)
  • 'HORTVS CONCLVS' (left panel; under the block)
  • 'TIMELVM DEI' (left panel; under the round temple)
  • 'PVLCHRA LUNA' (on the right panel; under the moon)
  • 'STELLA MARIS' (on the right panel; under the star)
  • 'SCALA CELI' (on the right panel; under the steps into the clouds)
  • 'VASI CLERESVS' (on the right panel; under the tree)
  • 'ELANATI' (on the right panel; under the plant and berries)
  • '[F]ONS [H]ORTORVM' (on the right panel; under the pot with cover)
  • 'CIVITAS DEI' (on the right panel; under the city)
  • 'TVRRIS DAVID' (on the right panel; under the tower and cross)
  • 'TOTA SVIS MRA/EST AMICAM/EAE IMACVLANS/ESTVNTE' (under God the Father)
Gallery Label
The subject, known as "Tota Pulchra", is derived from images of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin is surrounded by appropriate symbols. The wings of this miniature triptych depict St. John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist (above), and St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua (below). The frame is distinctively Chinese. Similar reliefs were carved in Canton and in the Philippines by Chinese sculptors for the Spanish market.
Credit line
Purchased from Don Jose Calcerrada, Madrid, in 1863, for 50 francs, by John Charles Robinson
Object history
The inscriptions on the object were probably transcribed by an artist whose knowledge of Latin or indeed Western alphabet was non-existent, this is why some of the words and phrases are seemingly incomprehensible. This ivory was almost certainly intended for a Franciscan individual or community, and the iconography would have been dictated by a Franciscan. The Oriental features of the faces, as well as the stylised clouds beneath the Virgin in the central panel, suggest that this piece was made for the Spanish market in the Philippines by Chinese or Filipino craftsmen.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Ivory was popular as a material for religious subjects, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries. Spanish and Portuguese patrons imported ivories carved with Christian imagery from their territories overseas, such as the Philippines, Mexico and Goa. German and Netherlandish artists were renowned for their dexterity in ivory carving. Their reliefs are masterpieces of composition and virtuosity. This small, portable triptych was made for devotional purposes. Its two side wings were hinged so they could close over the central relief.



The subject, known as "Tota Pulchra", is derived from images of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin is surrounded by appropriate symbols. The wings of this miniature triptych depict St. John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist (above), and St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua (below). The frame is distinctively Chinese. Similar reliefs were carved in Canton and in the Philippines by Chinese sculptors for the Spanish market.



A relief close in style and subject, similarly showing the Tota Pulchra, was on board the Santa Margarita, a Manila galleon bound for Acapulco, which was wrecked in 1601, some of whose cargo was excavated from the Pacific Ocean in 2006 by Jack Harbeston and IOTA Partners. The date of the Santa Margarita wreck implies that the subject was being carved in this format in 1600, and the form is likely to have continued in the following years, giving an approximate date span for the present piece.
Bibliographic References
  • Estella Marcos, Margarita M. La escultura barroca de marfil en España : las escuelas europeas y las coloniales. Madrid : Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto "Diego Velázquez," 1984, vol. 1, fig. 328 and vol. 2, p.328.
  • Clunas, C. Chinese carving. [London] : Victoria & Albert Museum : Sun Tree Publishing, 1996, p.17, fig.5.
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1864 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 40.
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929. Part II. p. 112.
  • Ferrão, "Notas sobre a Arte Indo-Portuguesa", Colóquio, 52, February 1969, p. 20.
  • Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013pp. 352, 353
  • Trusted, Marjorie, ‘Survivers of a Shipwreck: Ivories from a Manila Galleon of 1601’, in: Hispanic Research Journal, vol. 14, no. 5, 2013fig. 13
  • Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, pp. 352, 353, cat. no. 347
Collection
Accession Number
99 to B-1864

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record createdDecember 17, 2003
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