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One Virgin and Many Saints



     Ed Simmen calls attention to the retablos in Spanish and Mexican churches, which feature statues of the Virgin and of saints;
     "Anyone interested in the Mexican veneration of saints should consult a book published in 1995 by the University of Arizona Press: MIRACLES ON THE BORDER: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, by Jorge Durand and Douglas S. Massey. A retablo is a devotional religious painting on tin. The book has seven introductory essays on the retablos: 1.Origins of Votive Paintings, 2. Retablos in Theory and Practice, 3, Artists and Retablos, 4. Sacred Shrines, Holy Icons and Migrants, 5. The Content of Migrants' Retablos, 6. Masterpieces on Tin: A Survey of Migrants' Retablos, and finally 7. Catalog of Retablos. The book ends with brilliant reproductions of 40 retablos painted by Mexican workers who migrated to the US."


     My comment: The tin surprises me. Retablos (meaning behind the altar) have a long history going back to the Byzantine church. The most expensive were actually made of gold or silver. In the Spanish world, they are usually made of estofado, gilded wood. They unfortunately are attacked by wood-eating insects. The retablo in San Francisco's Mission Dolores is for this reason to undergo an expensive restoration. Presumably he Mexican migrants to the United States used tin as a cheap substitute. I have never heard of its being used in Mexico.

Ronald Hilton - 5/19/00


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