La otra noche mi novio entró a mi recamara por la ventana porque mis papás no lo quieren pero de repente ellos entraron porque escucharon nuestros ruidos. Dedico este retablito a San Ramón Nonato porque me hizo el milagro de que ellos no se dieran cuenta que mi novio estaba escondido detras de la cama y se creyeron el cuento que era mi gatito el que hizo ruidos. Luiciana Salazar, Tamaulipas 1940
Culture in Mexico
Ex-Voto is a Spanish word meaning “votive offering”.
"Ex-Voto" paintings are Catholic religious paintings that became very popular in the Mexican religious culture in the 19th century. They are usually small: 30 x 20 cm and painted mostly on wood or metal.
Ex-Votos are images offered to a saint or the Madonna as a thank you for an answered prayer. In most cases, the Ex-Voto is signed by the supplicant and dated, and explains why the giver is giving thanks. In many cases, they tell a very touching personal story which is why they are so fascinating. The Ex-Voto is most often left at a church altar. They are very public, yet very personal, professions of faith in God and thanks for favors received.
The most common reason for thanks is health, with many Ex-Votos dedicated after operations. Survival of accidents is another reason, but almost any subject is sufficient to justify creating one, from finding a missing farm animal to helping to find a spouse.
The tradition of votive painting was brought to the Mexico by Spanish conquerors.
At the end of the 18th century, tin plate became widely available in Mexico and thus, Mexican folk painters discovered a new surface medium for their paintings. Because tinplate was so cheap, the practice of offering votive paintings to Jesus, Mary or one’s favorite saint became very common in Mexico,
Ex-Votos are a wonderful and unique expression of Mexican culture.
"Ex-Voto" paintings include three elements:
1) a scene illustrating a tragedy or someone with a grave illness or injury;
2) a Saint or martyr that intervened to save the person, and
3) the description of the event usually at the bottom of the Ex-Voto.
We can see the influence of the "Ex-Voto" style of painting in some of Frida's works.
Frida would often take elements from these votive paintings to create her own style of Ex-Voto in her paintings.
The Ex-Voto (Frida called it “Retablo”) Nr. 70 in the exhibition is an example of an Ex-Voto Frida bought because it resembled her own tragic bus accident of 1925, then painted her own head (with the famous uni-brow) over the Ex-Voto, and changed the name of the destination of the bus “Coyoacan”
Frida Kahlo paintings "My Birth" Nr.34, "My Nanny and I" Nr. 47 and "The Suicide of Dorothy Hale" Nr. 63 are typical examples of Frida style Ex-Voto.
Paintings left to right:
# 34: My Birth, 1932, # 47: My Nurse and I, 1937, # 63: The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, 1938-39
licensed replica: ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008