Virgin Mary Santos, 18th century, no. V, Spanish Colonial Religious Art

Sir Raffles Art & History is Charles Mandel’s collection of antique Santos and ethnographic collectibles, mostly carved wood. See current selection on Etsy:

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This is a special carving of the Virgin Mary, older than nearly all of the Philippine pieces that I’ve collected. The deep, deep carving of the robes was more typical in the early ages. If you have a moment look at how thinly carved the headdress is at the sides. It is more difficult and time consuming to carve the dense woods, especially with rudimentary tools, and is therefore more expensive. However, if the wood had been less dense then this wonderful Lady would never have survived. While the design is not particularly complicated, the artist certainly took his time to develop the folds and other details. The mouth is slightly open, as if in a smile of greeting. The face is very well done and now quite deeply covered by votive candle smoke. This Lady has accompanied many a prayer.

Lastly, this was not done by a poor farmer for his own use but by, perhaps, the village or regional artisan. It would have been quite an expenditure for a humble family, but a necessary and worthwhile one.

General: 13″ in height. Carved very dense wood, polychrome. On custom, contemporary display stand. Philippines.

Condition: Both hands missing. Other flaws including major surface damage, as seen in the photos. Old repaints. Smoke patina heavy to face (does not smell).

Whatever the culture, there can be no more important art than that used as an aid for communicating with the divine. I have always found devotional artifacts fascinating to collect; there is no better way to connect with a past culture than through the objects that were important to it. Collecting santos figures is particularly gratifying. The subject, the style and the methods of production combine to tell the tale of what the individuals in that culture valued.


I have been collecting artifacts and religious objects for many years, specializing in Asian and European vintage carvings. Don’t hesitate to ask about other stock that I might have that is not listed here.



Materials: wood,polychrome

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