Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings
Thursday 6 October 2011 - Sunday 26 February 2012
Mexican votives are small paintings,
usually executed on tin roof tiles or small plaques, depicting the
moment of personal humility when an individual asks a saint for
help and is delivered from disaster and sometimes death. 'Infinitas
Gracias' will feature over 100 votive paintings drawn from five
collections held by museums in and around Mexico City and two
sanctuaries located in mining communities in the Bajío region to
the north: the city of Guanajuato and the distant mountain town of
Real de Catorce. Together with images, news reports, photographs,
devotional artefacts, film and interviews, the exhibition will
illustrate the depth of the votive tradition in Mexico.
Usually commissioned from local artists
by the petitioner, votive paintings tell immediate and intensely
personal stories, from domestic dramas to revolutionary violence,
through which a markedly human history of communities and their
culture can be read. The votives displayed in 'Infinitas Gracias'
date from the 18th century to the present day. Over this period,
thousands of small paintings came to line the walls of Mexican
churches as gestures of thanksgiving, replacing powerful
doctrine-driven images of the saints with personal and direct pleas
for help. The votives are intimate records of the tumultuous dramas
of everyday life - lightning strikes, gunfights, motor
accidents, ill-health and false imprisonment - in which
saintly intervention was believed to have led to survival and
'Infinitas Gracias' will explore the
reaction of individuals at the moment of crisis in which their
strength of faith comes into play. The profound influence of these
vernacular paintings, and the artists and individuals who painted
them, can be seen in the work of such figures as Diego Rivera and
Frida Kahlo, who were avid collectors. The contemporary legacy of
the votive ritual will be present in the exhibition through a wall
covered with modern-day offerings from one church in Guanajuato: a
paper shower of letters, certificates, photographs, clothing and
flowers, through which the tradition of votive offering continues
today. The sanctuaries at Guanajuato and Real de Catorce remain
centres of annual pilgrimage, attracting thousands of people to
thank and celebrate their chosen saints.
Browse a selection of the stories from 'Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings' and see the ex-voto paintings that illustrate them.
These films accompanying the exhibition provide some background to the places and ways in which votive paintings are made and used in present-day Mexico.
Visitors' stories have been transformed into contemporary votive offerings by professional illustrators. Tell us about something that happened to you that you'd like to give thanks for, and yours could join them.
A book of 20 large-format postcards
depicting beautiful votive paintings from
the exhibition is now available.
A diverse programme of events accompanies both exhibitions in Miracles & Charms.