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Mexican Tin Retablo of St. Joseph
Retablo of St. Francis of Paola

A retablo(or lamina) is a term for a Latin American devotional painting whose iconography is rooted in European Christian art syncretized with regional indigenous customs.  Usually painted by untrained rural artists with oils on rectangular sheets of tin, this art was an expression of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As most homes had their own patron saint, laminas were often commissioned by the individual.  They were also purchased from peddlars who offered them door to door or in stands around churches on holidays and feast days.  These unique sacred objects, endowed with supernatural powers, created the household altarpiece and depicted either Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, popular saints and archangels who were the intercessors for reaching God. The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were universal figures and were considered the most important and direct intercessors.  Many of the retablos represented different aspects or manifestations of their lives.  The saints were very popular in this art form as they had specific attributes and were actually based on the lives of humans. Their cult was disseminated by the religious orders that came with the Spanish conquerors.  Some of these saints later acquired some very unconventional powers.  Invoked for protection, healing, crops, money, relationships, social problems, etc., these fresh and spontaneous images were never to judge, correct or punish the believers who implored them.  This folk tradition has totally disappeared.               

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