Some Christmas ago, perhaps a decade past, my dear wife Liz gave me this retablo (literally: board behind), also called an ex-voto (from a vow). Painted in 1940 to thank the Holy Trinity for the recovery of a man named Pablo, this piece of tin now occupies the section of our hallway just outside my daughter’s door.
As I walk by this image during my hurried day I often take a moment to wonder about Pablo and his family and how they fared in subsequent years. Admittedly, the artistry of this ex-voto is not that of a master. You’d think for all the supplication that an ex-voto artist would be called to depict that they would have taken the time notice that the knees of a kneeling woman do not resemble a piece of macaroni. Nonetheless, I do find the shear ubiquity of these objects to be quite profound.
Looking at the image below I am struck by tragedy and pervasiveness of illness and injury. Seen in a group, these individual representations of grief and worry remind us just how fraught life can be without all the violence and injustice that we inflict on ourselves.