Miracle Paintings

I like exploring the foreign and the new, and sampling popular culture from across the globe . But with technology and globalization, there are fewer things that are completely new to me. Or I tend to get fixated on notions that the rest of the world is already talking about.

So it is with great joy that I chanced upon the Infinitas Gracias exhibition at the Welcome Collection in October last year. And it was here that I found the new and different that I was looking for.

A stunning display of Mexian votives that depict a plea for help or a prayer of thanksgiving, these paintings are usually on tin roof tiles that traditionally adorn the walls of Mexican churches. With each depicting a drawing and some background narrative, these were usually commissioned from local artists and date all the way back to the 18th century.

When her son, Guadalupe Maldonado, ran away for four years without giving any news of his whereabouts, Doña Merced Hernandes petitioned Saint Francis of Paola of the Order of Guanajuato, who brought him home in the year 1854. (Oil on tin, 1854. Museo Nacional de Historia/INAH)
Sr Simón Jiménez and all his family give thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi with this humble retablo for saving him from a certain death after being run over by a bus on 2 October 1955. Simón Jiménez and family. (Monterrey, Nuevo León). (Oil on tin, 1955. Propiedad del Santuario de San Francisco de Asís de la Diócesis de Matehuala, SLP, México/INAH)

What I like about these votives is that they were used alongside and in some cases instead of the traditional statues we use to adorn our places of worship. Stories OF the local people, and BY the local people seems like a much nicer way to commemorate the community. And how much more effective than to make the faithful feel involved by telling their stories of triumph and tribulation.

One painting by itself is powerful and feels like a time capsule. Put thirty or more of these together and you get this –

The Wellcome Collection doesn’t allow photography due to copyright issues but you can view a few of the installation images at their Flickr account. Unfortunately these don’t give a very good sense of the actual exhibition, but they will have to do for now. But what I really appreciate about this institution is the amount of educational information their website offers. Reading this before your visit  will actually help you better understand the exhibition.

My special favorites are the exhibition films that give you a sense of the local people behind the votives, and the large installation of prayers, photographs and offerings tacked up against the wall. The combination of these two definitely bring the paintings to life in a very special way.

Don’t miss out on these last few weeks of Infinitas Gracias. And more so if you’re looking for something other than the regular fare the rest of London’s museums have to offer.

Infinitas Gracias
Upto 26 Feb 2012
Wellcome Collection

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