Mexican Devotional Retablos from the Peters Collection
Place Published: Philadelphia
Publisher: Saint Joseph's University Press
Date Published: 1994
Book ID: 28
179 pages + preface and bibliography | 12 x 9 inches | 48 color plates and 57 b/w images
The Peters Collection is a permanent exhibition of forty-four Mexican devotional retablos (oil paintings on tin), two 19th-century Mexican oil-on-canvas paintings, and two Philippine bultos (statues). In 1993, this remarkable collection was presented to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia by Joseph and Ruth Peters, longtime retablo collectors and connoisseurs.
In Spanish, the word retablo usually refers to painted or sculpture retables or altarpieces that first became popular in Europe in the 14th century. However, in Mexico, retablo not only has the general meaning of altarpiece, but also the specific meaning of a small oil painting on tin of Christ, the Virgin and saints produced from the early 19th century through the early 20th century, when retablos was supplanted by inexpensive, mass-produced color lithographs. Retablos were intended for use as devotional objects by ordinary people in the privacy of their homes.
Since the publication of Gloria Fraser Giffords' pioneering study Mexican Folk Retablos in 1974, there has been a burgeoning interest in retablos. For example, in 1991 a major exhibition of devotional and ex-voto retablos, "The Art of Private Devotion: Retablo Painting of Mexico," was mounted with venues at museums in Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, San Francisco, and elsewhere. In 1992, a revised edition of Giffords' book was published.
This catalogue of The Peters Collection aims to advance the scholarly conversation begun by Giffords and continued by more recent studies. It achieves this aim by sharing insights from the collectors into how and why this particular collection came together, in addition to information on the technical and stylistic facets of specific retablos in The Peters Collection. This volume also attains its purpose by presenting scholarly research on heretofore neglected artistic and literary sources for many devotional retablo subjects, as well as commentary on each piece of the collection that offers a more detailed discussion of the iconography of devotional retablo subjects than is often found in the standard works on this art form.
Joseph F. Chorpenning, O.S.F.S., contrib. ed.
"[…] handsomely produced […] most informative […]"
A. Gordon Kinder, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies
"The quality and usefulness of this book are tributes to the donors, for their taste and philanthropy, and to the institution, for using a gift collection to support original research."
Robert Hershoff, Books of the South West
"This is a valuable addition to the growing body of literature on Mexican retablo art. […] [It provides] far more comprehensive information about the probable artistic prototypes used as models by Mexican provincial artists than was previously available. […] The forty-eight color reproductions of the retablos from the Peters Collection illustrate the remarkably expressive quality achieved by relatively minor artists in provincial Mexico."
José Aguayo, Catholic Historical Review