Lot 129
  • 129

Oratory with the Crucifixion Indo-Portuguese, Goa, 17th century

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Oratory with the Crucifixion
  • teak, ebony with silver mounts, ivory, and gilt copper.
  • 110cm. high, 64cm. wide, 32cm. deep; 3ft. 7¼in., 2ft.1in., 1ft.½in.
  • Indo-Portuguese, Goa, 17th century


M. Cristina Osswald, 'Considerações acerca de um Oratório Indo-Português', in Revista MUSEU, Porto, Círculo José de Figueiredo, 1994, Série 4, nr.3, p.17-35.

P. Dias, Mobiliário Indo-Português, Moreira de Cónegos, 2013, p. 160-165.

B. Ferrão de Tavares e Távora, Imaginária Luso-Oriental, Lisbon, 1983; P. Dias, A Talha Indo-Portuguesa, Coimbra, 2014.


Overall the condition of the Oratory is very good with minor dirt and wear to the surfaces consistent with age. Crucifixion group: There is minor stable splitting to the ivory consistent with the material, including to Christ's chest and legs. The Corpus is composed in sections and stable original slightly open joints are visible at the shoulders. There is wear to the probably original polychromy including to the faces of the mourners. The ivories are white in colour at the front where they have been exposed to sunlight, but yellowish elsewhere, mostly at the reverses, where they have been in shadow. The Magdelen's hands are carved separately and the fingers and thumb of her proper right hand are lost; there are further small chips to the fingers and thumb of the proper left hand. There is a small loss to the ground of the predella figure of Christ at the column. The wood base of the Crucifix is made in sections and joints are visible, and there are a number of small losses. There is stable splitting to the wood consistent with material. There are small losses to the silver gilt rays of the halo surrounding the Crucifix. There are some further small losses to the applied silver mounts, in particular to the terminals of the lower volutes. There is a detached piece of applied silver. The separately cast terminals of the Crucifix and the INRI plaque may be associated. Christ may have had a halo and the haloes of the mourners are loose. There are small losses to the Virgin's halo. There is oxidation to the silver. Oratory: There is minor warping to the wood doors consistent with the material. There is minor splitting to the wood, in particular to the first two reliefs of the left door. There are very small pins and small drilled holes in the doors where the inlaid panels have been attached to the reliefs. The wood backboard of the Oratory may be replaced and is composed of two panels with a central insert. There are further stable splits to the top of the back panel. There are a few small possible worm holes tot he back panel. There are some naturally occurring knots in the wood, including to the back panel and interior stage panel. The inlay appears to be in good condition with some possible restorations and some minor stable splitting consistent with the material. Some of the inlay has popped out of place in a few areas, including on the left door. When the Oratory was published by Osswald and Felgueiras in 'MVSEV' it was surmounted with an upper element and urn-shaped finials; all considered later and removed - holes for these are still visible on the top.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Oratories of this type were used in domestic interiors as private praying altars, although it is possible that they could have been used in individual monastic cells. The present example is exceptional not only for its scale but also for being the only known oratory which combines the traditional Goanese inlaid work of ebony and ivory on teak with a carved interior.

The subtle outside, decorated with exquisite floral designs issuing from vases, opens through hinged doors and sides, with richly carved scenes from the life of the Infant Christ, certainly inspired by European prints, as can be seen by the image of the Holy Family with the Holy Spirit by Hieronymus Wierix (fig.1).

The compartmentalised arrangement of scenes, although deprived of an architectural frame, follows the structure found in Goanese carved altars, the foremost example being the main altar at Goa Cathedral, which also has the unusual feature of a reticular decoration to columns. 

The coeval - and presumably made for this oratory - ebony Calvary group is unusually adorned with silver mounts, instead of the more common gilt copper, and presents a base which follows the early Baroque architectural structure of Goanese church facades. It holds six figures in niches representing episodes of Christ’s Passion. Above these, attending Christ, are ivory figures of Our Lady, St Magdalen and St John the Evangelist, of typical Goanese models (see Ferrão, figs. 173-4, p. 132).