Evangelizing the Indians
St Francis Xavier as Apostolic Nuncio in India
Melchior Paulus (1689-1745), monogrammed
Ellwangen an der Jagst near Stuttgart, ca 1715
Monogrammed MP on the plinth of the column, right
Boxwood, with modern ebony frame
Height 11 cm, width 6.5 cm, depth 1.3 cm
Distinguished by emphatic plasticity and particularly detailed representation, the present boxwood relief is one of only a handful of signed works by the Baroque sculptor Melchior Paulus (1689-1745), who was born in Ellwangen an der Jagst near Stuttgart 1689 and died in 1745: The monogram of the artist, MP, is on the obliquely shown side of the column plinth on which the figure of the saint is kneeling. The figure depicted is Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who is shown in the act of baptising a kneeling Indian. This outstanding work was probably carved ca 1715 because it reveals striking similarities with an ivory relief dated 1713 by this artist and held in the Staatliches Museum in Schwerin. The date of the relief discussed here will be confirmed by comparison with the twelve ivory reliefs with scenes from the Passion that are kept in the Cologne Cathedral Treasury: dated 1718, the Christ before Pilate panel in particular is consistent with the present boxwood relief in respect of composition and form.