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The Good Shepherd

Figura de marfil

Anonymous sculptor

Carved ivory


15 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm

Nº Inv. 20033

This Indo-Portuguese ivory carving is of a type highly appreciated in Spain and Portugal at the time it was made due to its decorative carving and the rare, exotic material employed. In addition to its aesthetic merits it has a clearly didactic, evangelising function, transmitting Christian themes and iconography through Asian decorative motifs and techniques. The result of sea routes to India, this work reveals cultural mestizaje between East and West, with a fusion of elements from Christian and Buddhist iconography.

The iconographic elements present in the work are as follows: on top of a mountain and sleeping on a heart pierced with a lance, Christ is presented through the iconography of the Good Shepherd, a young shepherd with two rams, one on his shoulder and the other under his left arm. This subject, which dates back to Paleo-Christian art and in which Christ guides the faithful as a shepherd guides his flock, also employs elements associated with the depiction of Buddha at the foot of the Bodhi tree or tree of enlightenment.

On the mountain below Christ are a series of elements arranged on different levels. At the top, a fountain with a spout with human features is a reference to Paradise and to the mythical fountain of life which confers immortality on those who drink its waters.

The central section has grazing lambs while the penitent Mary Magdalen in the desert is shown in the lower section. Depicted nude, she lies asleep inside a cave.