This picture showing a beautiful pair of Filipiniana busts was sent by phone to me for my consideration by my antique dealer from Bulacan. One look and I knew these were very rare pieces--and very old. The almost identical busts show two Filipinas in a typical Maria Clara outfit, characterized by a stiff panuelo, covering their camisa. One of the ladies has her head in a more tilted position and is about half an inch shorter, but both are carved similarly, right down to the hair caught in a bun at the back. There are polychrome traces on these fine softwood carvings.
I agreed with my dealer to see the busts up close on a Friday, as I really don't buy items without first seeing them--especially at the price he wanted. But towards the week, he phoned again to tell me that the middleman peddling the busts was pulling them out from his shop (he was taking them to Manila)--and asked f I could see them before Friday. That proved impossible for me, as I was still at work in Makati, so sadly, I passed them up. But the images of these rare Filipiniana pieces kept haunting me.
Next thing I knew, the pair appeared in an online shop in just a matter of days--sulit.com.ph--advertised by a Manila dealer. I quickly got in contact with the dealer and confirmed that the pair was still up for grabs. There was only one catch though--the original price had doubled! But at that point, i didn't care--the rarity of these pieces told me they were still worth much, much more.
I surmised that these were not commercially sold pieces but commissioned works from some sculptor meant to grace a grand old bahay na bato. Their faces might have even been modelled from real Filipina ladies, sisters perhaps. Another possibility was that these were works of an advanced art student, projects of his sculpting class. The details are impeccable, right down to the turned pedestals and the lacey like edgings of the ladies' panuelo.
But there was one more catch before I could even go check them out at the dealer's place: one bust had been sold. I would have wanted to get the pair, but I was still in luck: since I got to the dealer's place first, I had the first option to choose the bust of my preference. Of course, I picked the taller one, all 23 inches tall, showing a more mature lady of refinement and wealth. So ends my successful chase for this bust that had been the object of my fascination for a week--Maria Clara was mine to keep!
Show 'n tell time!
Pop culture curios, kitsch-y stuff and vintage nostalgia, picked from flea markets and someone else's trash bins. Amassed without rhyme and reason by an incurable collector of curiosities.