Friday, December 30, 2011

Rizal the Sculptor

I originally planned to post this entry to celebrate Jose Rizal's 150th birthday in July but never got around to doing so. Instead I'm posting it today on the 115th anniversary of his death.

Jose Rizal
Portrait of Jose Rizal by Fabian de la Rosa. 

Author, Multilingualist, Doctor, Patriot and Martyr all describe the man who turns 150 years old today: Jose P. Rizal. Truly he is a man of many hats.
Though his novels and writings are what are best known today to Filipinos, Rizal is also an accomplished sculptor. From a young age he learned how to fashion figures out of clay and other materials-a skill he refined to a great degree as evident in his later works.
As a young student at Ateneo de Manila, Rizal created a devotional figure of the Sacred Heart at the request of one of his teachers. Carved out of wood, it shows a stiff Christ, exposing his heart-a rather crude santo.

Sagrado Corazon de Jesus.

Later, while in exile at Dapitan, he rendered the likeness of a local girl out of clay.
In this portrait, Rizal shows his great ability in understanding his subjects. He has perfectly captured the sitter's willful character with her piercing eyes and defined, strong brows. It is a life-like rendition, almost as if the subject is about to speak.

La Dapitana
La Dapitana, 1890's. 

Rizal's statues are often small and intimate, yet all posses a monumental quality in their symbolism.
In ¡Orate Frates! (Pray, Brother), Rizal's dislike for the corrupt frailes is evident in the way how he renders the Friar: corpulent and homely. Caricatural traits that have become synonymous with greed and lust.
Perhaps that is how he envisions Padre Damaso, the villain in his novel,  Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not). It must be pointed out that Rizal's beef isn't mostly with Spain, but rather with the Catholic Church. He exposes the church's hypocritical nature and its exploitive, oppressive power over the archipelago through the characters of the monastic orders present in the story.

¡Orate Frates!
¡Orate Frates!

Everything that Rizal believed in and stood for can be found in Triumph of Science Over Death. In this small alabaster sculpture, he portrays Science as a victorious nude female. Science's stark nudity illustrates her purity and shameless pursuit of the Truth, a nuditas vitualis.

She tramples Death as she wields the Torch of Knowledge. With her guiding light, she frees mankind from the cold grips of ignorance and thereby from Death.

This sculpture is Rizal's statement that Filipinos no longer need to rely on blind faith in the divine or look to mystics when Science with all its facts and knowledge is there to guide them.

It is arguably his most famous sculpture. When I was a child, my mother would always point out the statue's replica to me whenever we were in UP.

Triumph of Science over Death.

Rizal created many sculptures throughout his life. Some have been lost to time or to the ravages of the Second World War though some of these sculptures can still be appreciated through photographs taken at the turn of the century.

San Antonio de Padua
San Antonio de Padua.

A sculpture by Jose Rizal
San Pablo Ermitaño, 1893.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beuron Nativity

December 2nd



Belen 2009


This Nativity set comes from the Beuron Art School in Germany and dates from the turn-of-century.
The Beuron Art School was started by a group of Benedictine monks and created religious artworks that were influenced by Egyptian, Classical and Byzantine art.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Originally uploaded by bleak!

Friday, November 25, 2011

WWII Era American Nativity.

Here is an incredible, WWII era Nativity set by the Transogram Company.
This set is labeled with pride as "American Made."
Before the war broke out, most Nativity sets (and other seasonal decorations) were imported from Germany. With the involvement of the United States in the war against the Axis powers, products from Germany were banned and American citizens were encouraged to buy "American" to showcase their patriotism and support for their sons fighting abroad.

 This Nativity set is an imitation of earlier German Nativity figures. These figures however, are cast in plaster as opposed to their continental counterparts which are mostly made of composition paper-mache. Check it out at my ecrater store.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

El Alma de Maria

Here's a lovely retablo of "El Alma de Maria" or the "The Soul of Mary." Such depiction of the Virgin Mary is also known as the "Nuestra Senora de la Paloma," or "Our Lady of the Dove." Check it out at my ecrater store.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

Originally uploaded by bleak!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ofrenda 2010

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Originally uploaded by bleak!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

1940's German Nativity from S.S. Kresge

Here's a composition/paper-mache Nativity made in U.S. Zone Germany. Nativity set was created right after WWII in the late 40's and was sold in S.S. Kresge, a chain store company. S.S. Kresge was the parent company of K-mart stores today. An interesting Nativity set as it tells the story of postwar Germany. Check it out at my ecrater store.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa
Originally uploaded by bleak!
A fine example of Philipine sculpture from the turn of the century. Perhaps a product of one of the many great "talleres" in Santa Cruz district of Manila.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Unnoticed Miracle

San Francisco de Asís
Originally uploaded by bleak!
A bas-relief sculpture showing the venerable Saint Francis of Asisi receiving the stigmata.
Below him, Brother Leo writes on his tablet, describing the miraculous event:

"All of a sudden there was a dazzling light. It was as though the heavens were exploding and splashing forth all their glory in millions of waterfalls of colours and stars. And in the centre of that bright whirlpool was a core of blinding light that flashed down from the depths of the sky with terrifying speed until suddenly it stopped, motionless and sacred, above a pointed rock in front of Francis. It was a fiery figure with wings, nailed to a cross of fire. Two flaming wings rose straight upward, two others opened out horizontally, and two more covered the figure. And the wounds in the hands and feet and heart were blazing rays of blood. The sparkling features of the Being wore an expression of supernatural beauty and grief. It was the face of Jesus, and Jesus spoke. Then suddenly streams of fire and blood shot from His wounds and pierced the hands and feet of Francis with nails and his heart with the stab of a lance. As Francis uttered a mighty shout of joy and pain, the fiery image impressed itself into his body, as into a mirrored reflection of itself, with all its love, its beauty, and its grief. And it vanished within him. Another cry pierced the air. Then, with nails and wounds through his body, and with his soul and spirit aflame, Francis sank down, unconscious, in his blood."

As this extraordinary vision unfolds, Life, it seems like, goes on as usual. A sheep continues to eat grass and a crane frolics near a brook.
Isn't this always the case? Miracles usually go unnoticed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Celestial Bodies - Terracotta Cross

This unique, handmade terracotta cross is hand painted in Lapis lazuli blue and decorated with images of celestial bodies: the sun, moon, stars and streaking comets. Truly a heavenly sight. It is accented with a white, satin ribbon for hanging. Check it out at my ecrater store.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Old Santa Cruz Church & The Virgen del Pilar

The church of Santa Cruz was started to be built in 1608 for the community of Chinese converts who were living on the outskirts of Manila. On August 8th, 1625, the church was handed to the Jesuits who made it their professed house and provincial residence. The building wasn't fully completed until a century later in 1715.
The old church building prior to the Second World War featured Classical-Revival traits, a style popular in late 18th and 19th century Philippines. The facade bore a series of ionic columns and a dominant pediment. Inside, the church housed a somewhat typical Neo-classical retables and pulpit. Featured in the center niche of theRetablo Mayor was the much venerated, ancient statue of Nuestra Senora del Pilar. The wooden icon of the Virgin of the Pillar was supposedly brought to the Philippines from Spain in 1643. However, the statue's ivory heads and its cladding of precious metal point to a more local provenance. Heavy-lidded eyes and the pairing of ivory with beaten and worked silver are hallmark traits of colonial Philippine Santo art. The miraculous Virgen del Pilar is a survivor of Liberation for Manila as the war destroyed much of the church and its surroundings. Today, the Virgin can be seen enshrined in the side retable of the present Santa Cruz Church.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Retro Nativity

Here's a colorful Nativity set from the 50's. "Vintage Plastic "Unbreakable" 17 piece Nativity set from the 50's. One figure has its original price tag of 10c. Made in the U.S. Figures measures approximately 4 inches high."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

1969 Sears Christmas, Nativities

Nice Catalog photos. It's great to see how they used to market Nativity sets.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Dormition of Mary

The Dormition of Mary

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vintage Mod Nativity Set

Vintage Made in Italy plastic Nativity set.
I like this set. It is rendered in a stylized manner typical of mid-century aesthetics which I so dig. Just look at the stable with its asymmetrical steep roof. It houses the Holy Family in style. The look is so indicative of the era. Gotta love the playfulness of mod sensibilities.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Santa Ana

Santa Ana

Here is a sculpture of Santa Ana and the young Virgen.
I started to create the body in 2008 but did not get to paint and totally complete it until two years later.
I know, I know it takes me a long time to finish anything.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Santísima Virgen María del Monte Carmelo

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Christmas in July once again!

It is hard to believe that half of the year has come and gone.
The month of July is here and for us Creche collectors out there, it is the time we start to think about what our Nativity display for this year would be like.

But before I start to brainstorm for ideas, I always find it inspiring to look back at how I set up the Nativity scene the year before.

Belen 2010
These have to be my favorite Creche figures. They are antiques from the turn-of-the-century and are made in Germay. Each are hand-painted and made of composition, similar to papier-mache.

I used a simple layout to showcase this charming Nativity tableau.
Usually, I would set the figures in groups of odd numbers and display them on different "levels."
This time around however, I chose to set all the characters on one plain.
To add interest, I set the Holy Family and the Stable on a small little "hill." You can view the complete Nativity Scene here:

Friday, July 1, 2011

On ecrater: Heart Broken and Bleeding Heart Necklace

A necklace for those who love too much and whose hearts are broken. Love lost.

Or perhaps, for those who are defiantly single.

On my ecrater store.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13

San Antonio de Padua

Saint Anthony of Lisbon's feastday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe

An old, hand painted plaster statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego.
Now in my ecrater store.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Infant of Prague

An Infant of Prague I had parted with sometime ago.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Semana Santa

cristo de la salvacion

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Ecrater: Blue Cross

Stars and Angel Easter Cross.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Grim Smile

a grim smile
Originally uploaded by bleak!

Text below reads:
This mummy, which is said to be more than two centuries old, has a merry on his face, as if he were delighted at the coming of the Americans. "

San Roque, Cavite

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Question of Theology: In what part of the body does the Soul dwell?

Quite an absurd thought but funny how some way of thinking never changes.

Here's a very interesting chapter from Walter Robb's 1935, Romance and Adventure in Old Manila originally from a manuscript by Percy Hill.

Ysidro Paulino
First half of the 1800's.


In the year 1693 a trading goleta of the flag of Spain
picked up a shipwrecked boat near the town of Binangonan de Lampon.
In the boat was the decaying body of a man, and two Spaniards barely fit to be termed alive.
They were reduced to the last extremity, and proved to be the
only survivors of the crew of the Santo Cristo de Burgos, which,
having sailed from Cavite some months before, had foundered
at sea near the Marianas Islands. One of the unfortunates
had lost his reason: he became an object of charity at the San
Juan de Dios Hospital in the walled city of Manila. Here he
so constantly raved about eating human flesh that suspicion
finally fell upon his companion, who was arrested and put to
the confession.
He was a common sailor, his name was Juan Valencia. He
stated to the authorities that after the galleon had foundered,
he and five companions put off in a boat. Though it was poorly provisioned, they decided to put back to the Philippines; and
placing their trust in God and the Virgin of Antipolo, they used
both oars and sail. After three weeks their scanty provisions
gave out; but their small stock of fresh water was added to by
passing squalls; they caught the rain by means of an old sail.
The dead calms were the most difficult to withstand. Their
tiny craft tossed upon sickening swells between sea and sky.
But these swells occasionally supplied them with a few flying
fish, and once a huge sea turtle.

Day after day they voyaged over the illimitable ocean, looking in vain for a landfall. Literally starving, at last two of
their number slipped quietly overboard, in despair of ever seeing
land again. The remaining four ate their jackboots and belts to still the gnawings of hunger and stay the hand of death.

Finally it was decided to draw lots: one might die that the
others might live. Choice fell upon the youngest of all. After
he had confessed and made his orisons, he bravely submitted
to the knife and his body was divided by lot among the other
In spite of this heroic sacrifice, one of the three, who
could not partake of such gruesome food, died of starvation. A
few days later the two remaining of the six who had put off
from the foundered galleon were picked up by the goleta and
brought to Manila.

Such was the sailor’s story.

The authorities, however, were not convinced that Valencia
was not a self-confessed criminal. They believed he should be
punished for cannibalism, although his statement was no more
unlikely than many a truthful account of those days, of men
who went down to the sea in ships. The ecclesiastics also
claimed that he was guilty of destroying a human soul, if not
actually partaking of it. He was therefore kept a prisoner
until his fate should be decided.

Governor Gongora was glad to refer this knotty problem
to the clergy, who claimed jurisdiction because of the destruction
of a soul.

The unhappy mariner was brought before them. He made
a favorable impression by his manly attitude and Catholic demeanor, even more than by the distressing circumstances in
which he found himself. But the argument of the sympathetic
though learned theologians rested on the fact that the eating of
a human body meant inevitably the destruction of a human soul.
Valencia repeated that he had only eaten the flesh to preserve
his life, and that the victim was resigned by lot. Asked what
portion of the body he had eaten, he replied that the feet had
fallen to his share. The question then arose, in what part of
the body did the soul dwell?

This was argued pro and con by the assembled divines.
The majority maintained that the soul occupied the whole body,
but the prior of the Franciscans wisely observed that if a good
man suffered the loss of an arm, it might go to paradise; and
if later he was so unfortunate as to die in mortal sin, the rest
of his body-might go to hades-which was too absurd to be allowed..

Finally it was arranged that the Faculty should consider
the theorem: Does the soul extend to the extremities; if not,
just where does it terminate?
The arguments in the ease were so prolonged and technically involved that the theologians were much perplexed, and at
last divided into two camps. They were in doubt as to
whether they should hang, by their honest decision, a good
Catholic, or canonize a reprobate and a cannibal. The pros
and cons, the ayes and nays, kept the monasteries in constant
tumult. Pronouncements buried in dusty tomes, precedents at
great length and wordy wranglings of medieval thought, promised to draw the matter out indefinitely.
Meantime the mariner preserved a righteous demeanor and awaited the outcome
with placid content. He did not, however, neglect the good
food provided him by the monastery cook, who determined that
as far as lay in his humble power the prisoner should have no
second pretext to commit cannibalism.
At length the weighty decision was handed down, by a
picked jury of the most learned. They agreed in the verdict
that the soul of man extends only to the knees: man is required
to kneel in prayer; ergo, that portion of the body that extends
below the knees is a soulless appendage. The indictment against
Valencia was accordingly stricken out. He was allowed to go
free, but as long as he remained in Manila he was the object of
curiosity as a Christian fortunate enough to have warded away
starvation at sea with the part of the body which had nothing
to do with the soul.

Romance and Adventure in Old Manila
Walter Robb
2nd edition, 1935

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Ecrater

Mater Dolorosa

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Filipino Dandies

Text below reads: The "Fishes of the Twelve Apostles."
Representing a native "fiesta" of the Tagalogs, with characteristic group of country people, on the island of Luzon.

They remind me of Clockwork Orange. heh.

19 Marso

San José

San José de Nazaret

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Santo Domingo's San Juan Evangelista

San Juan Evangelista

Santo Domingo's ivory San Juan Evangelista borne atop a silver andas, palanquin, during a Semana Santa procession in Intramuros, Manila. Behind the statue is a group of men carrying the symbols of the Passion and in the background is the old Manila Cathedral. 1900's.

The Philippines and the Far East.
Homer Stuntz

Monday, February 21, 2011

Niño Dios

Niño Dios
Originally uploaded by bleak!

An old Nino Dios from Mexico surrounded by Victorian German porcelain figures.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Ecrater

Check my ecrater store!