Name of Object:

Reliquary Chest of St. João de Brito

Location:

Lisbon, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Lisbon's Holy House of Mercy / Museum of São Roque

Date of Object:

c. 1694–1698

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Heinrich Mannlich (hallmark H.M.) (Unknown, Augsburg)

Museum Inventory Number:

MSR / Or 0625

Material(s) / Technique(s):

White and gilt silver

Dimensions:

H: 54 cm; w: 88 cm; depth: 40 cm

Workshop / Movement:

German goldsmiths/International Baroque

Provenance:

Augsburg, Germany

Type of object:

Reliquary

Period of activity:

1658–1698

Place of production:

Augsburg, Germany

Description:

The Portuguese established trading posts along the coasts of India and China where merchants could trade and store their merchandise, extending their authority into the hinterland. While the traditional political structures of local chieftains remained, the elite profited by reselling European wares. In addition to trade, the Portuguese sought to spread Christianity among the local Asian populations with Franciscan, Dominican and later Jesuit missionaries preaching to the indigenous peoples. The Christian missionaries learned the native languages, familiarised themselves with the indigenous cultures and even their religions; in this effort, the Jesuits were extremely dedicated. St. João de Brito was sent as a member of the Jesuit Order to the mission of Maduré, in India, in 1673. His aim was to convert the higher castes, in order to better establish Christianity in the region. He became a pandaraswami, an Indian ascetic. One of his converts, Prince Tadaya Theva upon becoming Christian, was rejected by one of his wives. She complained to her uncle, the Raja of Marava, who had the Jesuit executed in Orbyur, India, in 1690.
This chest, with a pyramidal lid engraved in low-relief, features scenes of St. João de Brito's life and martyrdom. The bas-relief on the top features the saint in Indian dress, with sandals and a staff. Several winged cherubs in chiselled silver flank the lid. The body of the chest presents two sculpted winged angels on each side in true Baroque expression. Four elaborate feet in gilded silver hold the main body. Commissioned by King Pedro II of Portugal as a royal homage to the Jesuit saint, the Portuguese coat of arms is seen in the centre testifying to the royal provenance.
The presence of the Agnus Dei on the top may have been a later addition by the Jesuits, who used it on special occasions as a Eucharistic tabernacle for the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.

View Short Description

Commissioned by King D. Pedro II, this Reliquary Chest is engraved in low-relief with scenes of St. João de Brito’s life and martyrdom. The bas-relief on the top features the saint in Indian dress, with sandals and a staff.

Original Owner:

Jesuit Order

Current Owner:

Santa Casa de Misericórdia, Lisbon / Museum of São Roque

How date and origin were established:

Moutinho de Almeida attributed this piece to the German silversmith Henrich Mannlich by identification of his hallmark (H.M.).

How Object was obtained:

After the expulsion of the Jesuits by the Marquis of Pombal in 1759, the church and the Professed House (House of the professed priests) along with all its possessions were given to Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Lisbon.

Selected bibliography:

Documentos para a História da Arte em Portugal, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Vol. 5, 1969, p. 26.
Vassallo, e Silva, N., “Os Relicários de São Roque, Oceanos, No. 12, Lisbon, 1992.
Moitinho de Almeida, F., Marcas de Pratas Portuguesas e Brasileiras – Século XV a 1887, Lisbon, 1995.
Vassallo, e Silva, N., “Aspectos da Arte da Prata na Companhia de Jesus” (Séculos XVI a XVII), O Púlpito e a Imagem. Os Jesuítas e a Arte, Lisbon, 1996.

Additional Copyright Information:

Copyright images: Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa.

Citation of this web page:

Antonio Meira Marques Henriques "Reliquary Chest of St. João de Brito" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;pt;Mus11_A;25;en

Prepared by: Antonio Meira Marques Henriques
Translation by: Antonio Meira Marques Henriques
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: PT 28