RELIGIOUS ICONS: Mexican Retablos & Ex-Votos

When I first started blogging I had intended to regularly post on Religious Art & Icons of which I have a healthy curiosity. I did one and then got lazy! So now I plan to rectify this. I’m not sure when or why I became so interested in Religious Art, but most certainly my fascination increased when I discovered the Mexican version of Retablos & Ex-Votos.

These examples of Mexican Folk Art are wonderful examples of why I love this art form. Simple, clumsy shapes and form take on life and meaning by the use of vivid colour and expression to depict their story of loss, happiness and gratitude.

This art form dates back to the 17th century and is a poorer cousin to the ‘Retable’ being, Religious Paintings and Sculptures traditionally displayed behind the alter in a church [those being as large as 40ft tall]

The Retablos & Ex-Votos, mostly painted on small Tin Sheets or Wood, were produced by the local people, and artisans of that time, as a way of thanking the Saints for wishes granted, perceived miracles, or simply to show their devotion to the divine.

The paintings [Ex-Votos] often include handwritten stories which are simple but heartfelt expressions of thanks. Simple portrayals of favourites Saints or Angels, who look over and protect them in their day to day life.

Well here are some examples from my ‘virtual’ collection

I’ll start with San Antonio and finish with the namesake of Rita from Mammabellarte, interspersed with Ex-Votos.


San Antonio de Padua

Retablo 9


Retablo 1


Retablo 7 .


La Virgen del Apocalipsis

La Virgen del Apocalipsis


Reetablo 2


Soledad de Sombrerete

Soledad de Sombrerete


Ex Votos 3


La Purisima Concepcion


San Miguel Archangel

San Miguel Archangel


Santa Rita

Retablo 8


Over the last few years I have collected many of these digital images. These colourful paintings are highly sought after and therefore have a price tag to match. I would love one day to start a ‘real’ collection of these beauties. I know they won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea. You certainly need to have a love of vivid colour to embrace their uniqueness.


I would say my favourite out of this collection is ‘La Purisima Concepcion’.

La Purisima Concepcion


Some Notes on the Saints: San Antonio de Padua [Saint Anthony] I had always thought St Antonio was the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, apparently not. He is [amongst other things] the Patron Saint of Lost articles, Fertility, Starvation, Expectant Mothers, Shipwrecks and Italy. Santa Rita Patron of Impossible Causes. Her symbols are the Rose and Fig. La Virgen del Apocalipsis The Virgin Mary holds the Christ Child while trampling the serpent of sin, who curls around the moon at her feet. San Miguel Archangel [Archangel Michael] Patron Saint to Mariners and the sick. La Purisima Concepcion The immaculate conception. Again depicted with the moon and serpent and also the sun.

IMAGE SOURCE: The Saint Retablos here are more recent finds from 'Colonial Arts'. The Ex-Votos I have had some time and no longer know the source [apologies].


Dumbwit Tellher ♥ said...

Julie - this this post is an eye opener for me. I would have never expected religious art to be so colorful; beautiful yes, but not quite as gorgeous as these that you have shown. I love learning new things & this has been fun. I understand now how one could become fascinated with religious artefacts. So much history & I love history. Hope your weekend is off to a grand start? Enjoy & relax dear Julie xx deb

koralee said...

wow..what a lovely way to start my day...these Saints just pop off the page..the colors used are amazing! I adore your always open my mind up and introduce it something new! Thanks ...and happy happy weekend!

Pam said...

I love these! For the past few months I've found myself drawn to Mexican art and culture. These religious icons are new to me and I thank you for making me aware of them.

Have a happy weekend!

Anne Marie said...

Julie -
those are beautiful images and wonderful art work -
I have been trying to collect as many religious art peices for the last 15 years, and some of my favorite treasures have been found unexpected - the Mexican religious art has a warm and 'homey' feel to it no? folk art at it's best.

Joan@anythinsggoeshere said...

I love them. I love the folkart and handmade feel they have. Over the years I have seen some at Estate Sales where they still had a hefty price tag. i have a few individually crudely carved small saints. Love them even as digital images.

Helenna said...

I love these saint images. I was recently looking for a saint Lorenzo because it is mentioned in my all time favourite movie called 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. They said he is the saint for Chefs so I would love to put him in my kitchen as I feel that already on some days I'm running a restaurant and with our household about to get even bigger..... he might bring me more inspiration :-)
Thank you so much for your comment on Driftwood & Chandelier. Instantly it made it worthwhile writing, hearing that it prompted action on your part and brought you laughter! I hope you had a great weekend.

Helenna x

Carole~Maynard Greenhouse said...

The primitive style is what I love about these paintings in the same way I'm drawn to Early American primitives. Isn't it great that we at least can buy prints of these masterpieces?
Beautiful post!!!

Dina said...

This is a beautiful and special post to serve as my first introduction to your blog.
Shalom from Jerusalem.

The Consummate Hostess said...

This is such an interesting post that is quite dear to my heart. I have a degree in Art History and a passion for iconography and religious icons. I love to see images from around the world and your selection is great. I do hope that you continue this series!

Petit Coterie said...

What a beautiful post. I have long had an interest in religious icons. I love to collect vintage prayer cards as well as saint metals. Thank you for stopping by my blog and I am going to follow yours as well.


Tracey said...

Julie they are gorgeous, it's no wonder you have a fascination with them...such peace and beauty!!!

:) T

Anonymous said...

Very vivid colours.. I like that. My favourite is probably La Virgen del Apocalipsis. I love the drapery..

FA said...

Great collection! I came here from Dina's blog. She has great blogger friends!