AN INDO-PORTUGUESE ALTARPIECE (RETABLO) WITH CHRIST ON THE CROSS
Goa (?) 17th/18th century
The altar carved and giltwood, with Christ’s figure in carved and polychrome ivory under a domed hood, behind him the shining light of God, decorated with many angel-heads on the baroque style columns.
H. 96 x W. 58 x D. 17 cm
H. 41 cm (Christ)
In the 17th century images of the columns made by Bernini for the canopy of Saint Peter were available in Goa and were an inspiration for carvers there. The ivory Christ with the veins clearly visible and the thin split beard is like other examples from Goa. Behind the cross a town is visible and at the foot of the cross, among rocks of the Calvary mountain is a skull and a crawling snake.
The Portuguese really tried to convert the population on the whole of the Indian subcontinent. At one point they even thought they could convert the Great Mughal emperor Akbar. However, Akbar attempted to reconcile opposites in the religious realm as he did in the political field, by promoting a new religion encompassing Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. In Goa, on the other hand, the centre of their presence in India, the Portuguese did build many churches and destroyed the Hindu temples to show the superiority of their new religion. Therefore woodcarving and the production of religious images in wood and ivory became important trades in Goa.