Christ the Good Shepherd

17th century

Object Place: Europe, Portugal


Overall: 22.5 x 7.4 x 6.6cm (8 7/8 x 2 15/16 x 2 5/8in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Alyce Morrissey Gallery (Kunstkammer) (Gallery 143)





In 3 niches around the oval base are sleeping figures of Joseph and two lambs. On the stepped pedestal above are more sheep and lambs with two small figures flanking a fountain mask. Above sits Joseph, sandals on his crossed feet, knee-length coat, a lamb

The image of a “good shepherd” who would lay down his life to save his flock had its origins in Roman art and was adapted early on by Christians. In the 17th century, the figure of a youthful Christ resting his head while surrounded by wooly sheep became a popular subject for Indian ivory carvers working in the Portuguese colony of Goa, where the first Jesuit mission had been established a hundred years before. The diverse population of colonial port cities like Goa encompassed a variety of religious traditions, as did the Holy Land. The art produced in European outposts throughout Asia and the Middle East often reflects cultural crosscurrents and is the product of overlapping religious and artistic traditions.


1930, gift of Edward Royall Tyler (b. 1854 - d. 1942), Boston, to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 6, 1930)

Credit Line

Gift of E. Royall Tyler