This large sculpture of Augustinian friar and mystic St. Nicholas of Tolentino (1246-1305) was once in a niche, part of a carved wooden altarpiece considered to be a masterpiece of Indo-Portuguese art, in the Convent of Santa Monica.
St. Nicholas is recognizable by his true personal attribute, the star at his breast. He is shown wearing the dark and distinctive Augustinian habit with its hood, wide sleeves, cape, black leather cincture buckled at the waist, as also leather shoes. This order’s habit was made of wool rather than the more customary and expensive linen, with the cape designed to ward off the cold of medieval European churches. The saint is European in aspect, and wears a monastic tonsure. The carved drapery is stylized and flowing in the Baroque manner, with the sculpture showing traces of gilt in some places. The base of the sculpture is partially damaged.
The saint usually holds a crucifix, now missing. In his left hand he holds a stylized hexagonal plate which would have originally held a bird on top; only the circular central cavity, with two broken nails, where it was attached, remains. St. Nicholas, famed for his kind, gentle, generous nature, was vegetarian by preference. According to legend, when he was once offered a roasted fowl, he made the sign of the cross over it, and out it flew through a window.
The altarpiece dates to c. 1625. See Victor Serrão, “Painting and Devotion in Goa in the Time of the Philippians: The Monastery of Saint Monica on ‘Monte Santo’ (c. 1606-1639) and its Artists,” Oriente, No. 20, 2011.
Victor Serrão, “Painting and Devotion in Goa in the Time of the Philippians: The Monastery of Saint Monica on ‘Monte Santo’ (c. 1606-1639) and its Artists,” Oriente, No. 20, 2011.
Museum of Christian Art, Convent of Santa Monica, Goa, India, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 2011.