SPANISH, CIRCA 16TH CENTURY
Saint James the Greater
Overall the condition of the jet is good with dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There is a restored break at the face and neck with glue residues. The break appears to be clean and this could probably be hugely improved by a professional conservator. There are various small losses including to the proper right side of the hat (front and back) and to the lower edges. There are also small losses to details such as the nose and book. There is minor stable splitting to the jet consistent with the material.
"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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
This evocative jet carving may have been acquired on a pilgrimage to Santiago da Compostela. Jet is a dense form of coal (fossilized vegetable matter) which can be carved and polished. According to Trusted 'many Spanish jets are inextricably connected with the pilgrims who, over the course of six hundred years or more, from the twelfth to the eighteenth century, visited the shrine of St James at the Cathedral of Santiago da Compostela' (op. cit. p. 142). Such carvings were probably apotropaic and may have served as emblems to prove that a believer had embarked on a pilgrimage. Trusted notes that Santiago jet carvers were members of a guild and suggests that 'Probably all the surviving Spanish jets dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century were produced by members of the guild' (op. cit., p. 143). The present, large, carving of St James compares with the figure on a Rosary Bead in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. no. M.813-1926). It is difficult to give a precise date to the figure, but the characterisation of the Saint probably indicates a 16th century dating.
M. Trusted, Spanish Sculpture. A Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996, pp. 142-143, no. 70