The present framed ivory relief of the Coronation of the Virgin provides a fascinating example of the rise of antiquarianism in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It combines a baroque ivory relief which shows the influence of the Spanish sculptor Luisa Roldán (1652-1706) combined with translucent enamel silver panels which reflect the influence of the Augsburg goldsmith and enameller David Altenstetter (1547-1617), as well as repoussé silver scrollwork of the 17th century.
The framed ivory offered here is closely related to two other framed ivories, one depicting the Pieta in the collegiate church of Pastrana, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the other depicting the Entombment in the Convent of Santa Teresa, Valladolid, Spain (Estella Marcos, 1984, op. cit., nos.129 and 131, figs. 123 and 128). All three have a rectangular recessed opening which contains an ajourée ivory relief, surrounded by a frame decorated with pierced silver mounts set with large garnets. The Pastrana relief also has enamelled silver panels closely comparable to those found on the present lot. All three are further embellished with scrolling silver decoration, on four sides in the present case and as a surmount for the Pastrana and Valladolid examples. A fourth related object is an elaborate silver and gilt-bronze mirror in the Milwaukee Art Museum which is dated by the museum to circa 1600 and described as 'in the manner of David Altenstetter'. It has a closely comparable form, virtually identical silver scrolls down the sides and translucent enamel panels set into the frame.
Both the present lot and the Pastrana relief incorporate three small bees and the Pastrana relief has traditionally been considered a gift from the Barberini pope Urban VIII - whose family used bees as one of their heraldic devices - to the 3rd Duke of Pastrana. Rui Gomez da Silva, 3rd Duke (1585-1626), was Spanish ambassador to the Vatican from 1623 to 1626 and is known to have received gifts from the pope during his time in Rome, including a painting on stone by the French artist Jacques Stella (Carvajal, op. cit., p. 165). The 3rd Duke in particular was a great collector and philanthropist, and along with other members of the ducal family made artistic donations to religious institutions where they had estates in the Spanish colonies in what is today Mexico.
It is interesting to note that all three of the framed ivories have Spanish or Spanish colonial associations, and it seems likely that a workshop based in Spain produced the frames for the ivories in the late 18th or first half 19th century using elements from existing works of art. It is possible that the bees were included in the frames of the present lot and the Pastrana example on the basis of oral tradition that the ivories were gifts from the Barberini pope Urban VIII, although the fact that the ivory relief offered here seems to be by a Spanish sculptor would contradict this possibility. The idea that the frames of these ivories are antiquarian creations is strengthened by yet another ivory published by Estella Marcos (1984, op. cit., no. 130, fig. 124). This depicts an ivory relief of the Entombment but it is set into an architectural table altar of northern European form. It is embellished with pierced silver mounts and - on each side - by repoussé silver scrolls which almost certainly come from the same workshop as the frames seen on the present lot, as well as the Pastrana and Valladolid examples.
Unlike the ivory relief offered here, the ivories of the other three examples discussed above all appear to be Italian in origin. The present scene of the Coronation of the Virgin shows the influence of the Spanish baroque sculptor Luisa Roldán. Stylistically it can be compared to her terracotta group of the Virgin and Child with St Diego of Alcalá (Victoria and Albert Museum, no. 250-1864) in its treatment of the drapery and in the thick locks of abundant hair. The facial type of the Virgin is extremely close to the face of the Virgin of the Pilgrimage in the Franciscan convent of Sahagún, Leon, Spain.