Sino-Portuguese Ivory Plaque of Mary Giving the Rosary to St Dominic
The ivory plaque is depicted with intricately carved figures portraying the biblical scene of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from the Virgin Mary. To the front of the plaque, Virgin Mary is holding baby Jesus in her arms while standing on a crescent moon, as she is often portrayed. Beneath Mary there are two figures. The figure on the bottom left is St. Dominic as he is receiving the rosary beads that Mary is holding. The figure to the right of St Dominic is most likely Catherine of Sienna, a member of the Dominican Order who preaches the Gospel and fights the threat of heresy. Between St Dominic and Catherine of Sienna, there is a dog holding a flaming torch in his mouth. This dog is often portrayed together with St Dominic. Above the Virgin Mary in the clouds, there are two angels represented. When St. Dominic failed to convert a group called the Albigensian Cathar heretics to Catholicism he punished himself by flogging his body. As a result, he passed out into a coma from the pain. During his coma, he sees the Virgin Mary who presents him with the rosary. After he wakes up, St Dominic uses this rosary to help convert people.
This ivory plaque was made during the 17th century either in China or the Philippines. During this period, ivory plaques with Christian iconography were produced in Asia for the European market, most notably for Portugal and Spain. When the ports in the Fujian Province in southern China opened in 1567, Spanish trading boats were sent there (Christianity In Asia: Sacred Art And Visual Splendour, p. 204-5). Consequently, these religious ivory plaques were traded and transported to Europe.
Chong, Christianity In Asia: Sacred Art And Visual Splendour, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2016.