Examples of Ex-Voto and Retablo Paintings
(Ejemplos de las Pinturas Ex-Voto y de Retablo)

Ex-Voto Painting
Retablo Painting

Translated from Spanish: "Blessed art thou, virgin of Guadalupe, for healing my spine when my horse, at full gallop, fell on top of me when it was frightened by a snake. I could not walk and I prayed to you. After 60 days I am walking again, for which I give you thanks. Mr. Ramon Jalisco 1931"


Our Lady of Guadalupe

Ex-Voto paintings include three basic elements:

1) a scene depicting a tragedy or someone with a grave illness or injury,
2) a Saint or martyr that intervened to "save the day" and
3) an inscription describing the tragic event and giving thanks for the intervention.

These paintings were commissioned by the person depicted in the Ex-Voto or by friends or close members of the family who were grateful for the divine intervention. They were inexpensive and usually crudly painted on small sheets of tin by an anonymous armature artist and rarely ever signed. Because the subject matter is unique for each Ex-Voto, they are still being painted by hand today. The older Ex-Votos are highly collectable.


Before the 1800s, Retablos were large gilded, painted and carved screens which adorned churches. In the 19th century, they became smaller in size, typically painted by unskilled artists who were commissioned or who simply painted in bulk to sell in small booths outside the church. The Retablos were paintings of the Virgin Mary, Christ or saints, copied from images in churches and rarely signed by the artists. In the 1920s, the hand painted Retablos were replaced by the abundance and availability of larger lithographs. Today the old hand painted Retablos are collected by individuals and museums as art pieces and can be worth hundreds of dollars each.

Ex-Voto paintings are sometimes referred to as a Retablo. Some distinguish between the two by labeling the Ex-Voto as "Ex-Voto Retablos" and the Retablos as "Retablos Santos". Frida and Diego had a collection of hunderes of Ex-Votos and Retablos on display throughout their home. Frida was known to have removed a few from the walls of churches to include in her own collection. She would sometimes use elements of an Ex-Voto in her own works to create her own "Frida Style" Ex-voto (Retablo).

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