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Joy and Suffering: Mexican Retablos from the EPMA Collection

Anonymous, Our Lady of Guadalupe​, late 19th century, oil on tin. EPMA, gift of Dr. Steven McKnight in honor of Frank and Sara McKnight.

Joy and Suffering: Mexican Retablos from the EPMA Collection
March 8, 2019 - September 1, 2019

Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery

Isolated from major city centers, inhabitants of 19th century rural Mexico looked to untrained artists to craft devotional Christian images for their homes. These artists utilized readily available materials and created modest, yet distinctive works of art by blending traditional Christian imagery with folk and pagan beliefs. EPMA, committed to collecting, interpreting, and presenting Mexican art, has amassed the second-largest museum collection in the United States of what are now called retablos, or small devotional paintings on tin and copper.

In March 2019, EPMA’s retablos collection will undergo an entirely reimagined installation, presenting highlights from the Hamilton Collection, the McKnight Collection, and the Roderick Collection. Representative of the breadth and depth of EPMA’s holdings, the reinstallation will include the display of ex-votos, or works commissioned to commemorate miracles, as well as bultos, or carved wooden sculptures. The installation will examine images of the Virgin Mary in her many folk and formal manifestations, from the well-known Virgin de Guadalupe to the lesser-known Our Lady of Solitude. When considered together, EPMA’s retablos offer a framework for understanding the daily joys and sufferings of life in 19th century Mexico and demonstrate the continued desire, despite a lack of means, for personal devotional imagery.

Support for this program is provided in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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