Retablos Santos are depictions of different images of devotion displayed in home altars for private worship, treated with respect and not intended to be worshiped themselves. Their function was to induce spiritual qualities of love, respect, devotion, faith, sacrifice, and humility directed toward the person or thing, i.e., the model that they represent. Veneration was, and still is, shown to the image by bowing or making of the sign of the cross towards it, kissing it, or placing offerings of sacrifices, prayers, flowers, food, and candles before it. The themes are usually images of veneration, including those of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Family, male and female saints as well as Archangels.
The retablo tradition was threatened at the end of the nineteenth century, when inexpensive chromolithographs (color prints) of saints and holy images became readily available. The Mexican artists could not produce devotional paintings at such a low cost and were, subsequently, driven out of business. Nevertheless, the retablo tradition has continued through modern printing methods in the forms of calendars, holy cards, posters, and religious trinkets sold in markets near churches and shrines throughout Mexico and in the United States.
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