This ivory sculpture of Jesus traveled between three continents, demonstrating the global flow of materials, objects, and Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Both the Philippines and Mexico formed part of what was once called the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which was controlled by the Spanish Crown. Beginning in the sixteenth century, Spanish galleons (large, multi-decked ships) began to sail between Manila (in the Philippines) and Acapulco (in Mexico). This trans-Pacific Manila Galleon trade created an important route for the global exchange of materials (such as silk, spices, porcelain, and ivory from Asia and silver and gold from the Americas). Many of the resources and goods coming from Asia would also travel overland from Acapulco to the Gulf Coast of Mexico, at which point they would be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain.
These objects are often labeled “Hispano-Philippine ivory sculptures” to denote their creation in the Philippines (or possibly even China) but made for a Spanish clientele (whether in the Spanish Americas or the Iberian Peninsula). The artists may also have been originally from China.
Artists carved a number of small-scale devotional objects, like Christ Crucified from ivory— a luxurious material in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. While some of these ivory sculptures were ultimately destined for Spain, many remained in the Americas. An object like Christ Crucified also demonstrates the global reach of Catholicism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
- Manila Galleon
Test yourself with a quiz!
Learn more about New Spain
Learn about a New Spanish folding screen that also speaks to the Manila Galleon trade
Read about the Manila Galleon trade on The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline
Marjorie Trusted, “Survivors of a Shipwreck: Ivories from a Manila Galleon of 1601,” Hispanic Research Journal, 14:5 (2013): 446-462
M. Estella Marcos, Ivories from the Far Eastern Provinces of Spain and Portugal, ed. by L. Sada de González (Monterrey: Espejo de Obsidiana Ediciones, 1997)
For the classroom
Print out and use the Christ Crucified active note-taking activity (for teachers and students)
Print out a blank world map (like these ones), and have several different colored pens or pencils available. Choose 3-4 objects to track across the globe. Some examples of objects that can be used for this activity include:
Mark each object’s point of original production, and then add points to the map where they moved. Use a different color for each object.
- What do you notice about these objects’ movement in space and time? Do these objects intersect at any points? What does tracing their movements in space tell us about the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
- Compare the sculpture with other depictions of Christ Crucified from the renaissance, such as Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece or Juan Martínez Montañés and Francisco Pacheco’s Christ of Clemency. What does this comparison tell us about how peoples in different parts of the world pictured the Crucifixion?
- Compare Christ Crucified to other examples of objects made for private devotion, such as Rogier van der Weyden’s Crucifixion Triptych (c. 1445). What do they have in common?
- What does Christ Crucified tell us about global trade in the 17th century? Consider other New Spanish objects, such as featherworks, folding screens, and paintings on copper that might also speak to issues of trade, cross-cultural exchange, and the cosmopolitan nature of New Spain.
- The video mentions that Crucified Christ speaks to the new global reach of Catholicism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. How do other objects and spaces speak to this as well? You might consider spaces like the mission church of San Esteban del Rey at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico or paintings like Bernardo Bitti’s Coronation of the Virgin in Peru.
- How does our understanding of art and artists of a specific time period shift when we focus on objects that moved across vast distances over time? How do we categorize objects that migrate?
- Consider the history of ivory sculpture over time and in different cultures. How does Crucified Christ fit into a longer history of ivory sculpture that we see in objects such as the Minoan Statuette of a Male Figure (The Palaikastro Kouros, 1425 B.C.E.), the Byzantine The Emperor Triumphant (Barberini Ivory) from the 6th century, the Pyxis of al-Mughira from AH 357/ 968 C.E., and the Queen Mother Pendant Mask (Iyoba), 16th century, Edo peoples, Court of Benin?