Portugal, early 18th century
Terracotta and polychrome wood, glass
Made from terracotta richly decorated with estofado
painting, this representation of the Holy Family was probably inspired by the Apocryphal Gospels, in which various idealised episodes from Christ’s childhood are told. Valued for the application of seed pearls, the Virgin occupies the centre of the composition and is depicted sitting on a cushion embroidering, flanked by two children (Jesus and Saint John the Baptist) and by an angel. In the background stands the figure of Saint Joseph working at his carpenter’s bench.
The group is housed in a wall-mounted sacrarium decorated on the outside with gilded plant motifs against a red background. The truly unique interior reproduces the décor typical of an 18th-century noble house, with square tiles and five small gilded frames in relief, containing roses painted on glass. The floor mimics traditional black and white chequered marble, while the ceiling is decorated with phytomorphic swirls and scrolls punctuated with roses. The use of this flower evokes the figure of the Virgin, the rose without thorns, in an allusion to her virginity.