Thursday, May 21, 2015

Framed Tin Retablo of Santa Librata & Virgin Guadalupe

Mexico, ca. mid 19th century CE. A fine tin retablo with a painting of Santa Librata inset on the front side and a painting of the Virgin Guadalupe on the back, both set within an elaborately worked tin frame with rosettes at the corners, an arched upper end that is incised with striations perhaps symblizing rays of light as well as cut and punched at periphery; frame also has wing-like attachments on both sides and loop on back for suspension. Size: Paintings alone 9-3/4" x 6-7/8" (Santa Librata); 9-7/8" x 7-1/4" (Virgin Guadalupe); Framed 18" x 13-1/2" at widest. 

On the front side of this retablo is a painting of Santa Librata, a rendering that resembles those of the red bole group due to the style and technique displayed. This saint was one of seven or nine children born during a single birth to a heathen king of Portugal. All the children became Christians and suffered martyrdom. Although her father hoped she would marry the king of Sicily, she had taken a vow of virginity. When she prayed for help, a beard and mustache grew on her face repulsing the suitor. Outraged, her father had her crucified. In Spain and Mexico Librata is never depicted bearded but is shown as we see in this example, as a young girl crowned with roses and crucified. Palm leaves are also shown as they are the traditional symbols of martyrdom. She is attached to the cross without nails, as is customary in renditions of Santa Librata.

On the verso, a precisely and finely painted tin retablo of the Virgin Guadalupe, a praying Madonna, almost life sized with a tilted head and gently curving body, with hands pressed together in a prayerful gesture and lowered eyes. She is surrounded by a mandorla comprised of golden rays and stands upon a crescent moon that is supported by a cherub. This composition was adopted from medieval illustrations of the Apocalyptic Woman and may be traced back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Her garments, which never deviate, include a blue mantle with gold stars and trim and a red robe enriched with golden embroidery. In addition, the cherub with Byzantine like wings who appears beneath her is also a constant in renditions of the Virgin Guadalupe.

Acknowledgment Invaluable