17th century ivory carved roman baroque composition


Ivory composition representing St. Francis in front of the Holy Family. Rome, 17th century.

Exceptionally fine, this relief carved ivory representation of the Holy Family with St. Francis and the angels arouses not only admiration, but also curiosity for a little-known luxury item.

Produced with virtuosity in ivory plaques applied to a lacquered wooden background, this relief depicting the Holy Family is articulated in two levels. The front is organized around the image of the Holy Family: the Virgin and Child in the foreground, lit by rays in gilded silver, the child standing, supported by his mother, who extends her hand to Saint Francis and Saint Joseph behind them; Saint Francis kneeling before him, his head bowed, at his feet the cross, the skull, the crown of thorns and the whip. In this part the ivory relief is particularly thick, to the point that Saint Francis seems almost carved in the round. In the background, the angels, standing, showing the scene, and the cherubim in the clouds.

Ivory carving has seen no stopping over the centuries. In the 17th century, there are many production centers, thanks to Holland which imported the material from the colonies. In Italy, many sculptors flocked from Germany to the courts and the Vatican. The papal court in particular had ivory items made which served as diplomatic gifts. This composition, which is affected by the influences of the dominant Baroque, comes with certainty from Rome, therefore from the papal court, as indicated by a writing on the paper which closes the back of the frame: “Egidio Pettit fabrica in Roma con privilegio pontifico number 8 “. Egidio Pettit or Petit was an active woodcut card printer in Rome during the Baroque period.

This magnificent composition is still preserved in its original frame, in carved wood and lacquered in black.
Its provenance, an old Roman house where it has remained intact until today, and the stylistic characteristics of the sculpture, confirm that it is a Roman Baroque production belonging to the second half of the 17th century.


Relief cm 26 x 20
Frame cm 39 x 33

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