Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ex-Votos: Fervent Prayers From the Heart

(Above) Ex-voto: 1852, Size: 7” x 10”
This is definitely a very old piece. The spelling and writing is old style but apparently traced over during restoration.

“In the year of 1852 it happened to Niconor Ruiz that having burned the powder in the Palmillas Mine, he was enveloped in the flames. He sent up a prayer to the Señor de las Agonîas who favored his plea and he offers this (retablo), for perpetual memory of the faithful.”
(Above) Ex-voto: 1857, Size: 10” x 14”
Most of the writing survives on this very old ex-voto. It is painted on a very large, thick piece of tin. The kneeling figure is wearing the chinaco style pants of the period. The artist had beautiful penmanship.

“It happened on 8 December 1857 that a band of thieves, with the intention of killing him so he found out later, entered in the village. Even after robbing and injuring him the bandits did not recognize him. Being so close to God at that moment, he was persuaded that in the midst of his suffering, God heard his supplications. Then he commended so fervently to the Señor Santo Entierro and the Divine Señor de Sacromente that he was free from all his enemies. In gratitude for such a singular favor, he dedicates this retablo so that everyone can give thanks to God for his wonders.”

(Above) Ex-voto: 1890, Size: 10” x 14”
This is a relatively well-preserved ex-voto. Not much furniture except a colorful bed and importantly, the bedpan.

“On the 31st day of March, 1890, finding herself at the doors of the grave, Doña Jesus Coronel for reason of giving birth to a child and not finding any remedy, her husband Juan Piñeda, with a true heart, prayed to the Most Holy Virgin of Sorrows that is venerated in the Santuario de Paila, and (thus) healed and in an act of thanks dedicates this retablo.”

(Above) Ex-voto, 1916. Size: 6” x 8”
The captors were faking an execution to scare the daylight out of the man who is kneeling. You can see the red fire coming out of the rifles.

“The 4th of October of 1916, Francisco Maravillo accused with the crime of robbery and threatened with death by the law with several simulations of being executed. (He) at that moment prayed for the help of the Lord of Clemencia who is worshipped in his temple at Tamayo. Our Lord Jesus Christ attended him, returning him to his grieving mother, safe and sound, (and) she being very grateful, dedicates this retablo in testimony of such a singular favor.”

(Above) Ex-voto: 1969 (1968 incident): 8- 1/4” x 11-1/2”
This fairly recent ex-voto tells how a group of people were tragically ambushed. It was composed approximately five months after the incident which accounts for the two different dates.

“On the 10th of November of 1968 it happened that while going to the Rancho de Arreguin nearly all of our family were victims of an ambush by many bad people from that same ranch. Being injured I, Victoria Ramirez with a shot to the foot and another in the arm, and being injured as I could to relate this to Saúz. In view of so much gunfire in which my daughter fell dead, my husband received 10 shots but remained alive by a miracle, and Señores Aniceto and Santos Santa Rosa whom also fell badly wounded and finding ourselves in this conflict, the Señora Isabel Ramirez de Saúz implored from the heart to the Santa Cruz de la Gavia, praying that the rest not die. And having performed for us this miracle we declare it in this retablo for its maximum veneration.
Rancho de Arreguin Arriba
April 1969”


Ex-votos and retablos are devotional paintings (or carvings) that are illustrated to tell a story of a particular accident or dangerous, harmful event to a person or family. There are certain requirements that must take place: it must thank the gods or saints for a miracle or act of kindness; it must explain the event that occurred and it must portray divine imagery, like Jesus Christ, The Virgin Mary or other saints or gods.

I can’t claim to know a lot about this area of religious folk art as it’s an area that I have not studied deeply. I do know that there are a lot of fakes like this on Ebay and in shops you may come across. Of course, there are a number of reputable dealers of this material, so do your homework before buying. The ones above range in price from $300 to $2,000. These are part of the inventory of Vernon Kostohryz, who has an online gallery from his home in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.; Mexico. His phone number is (from the USA): 011-52 (415) 152-3482. You can learn more and see more Mexican and Latin American art at Vernon’s “Border Antiques.” (The hyperlink to his site is not working, so just google his store— you’ll find it at the top). The comments and translations above are from Vernon’s web site.

An AM repost from Dec 29, 2008.

1 comment:

scott rothstein said...

here is a little more info that may be of interest on the subject.

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