Retablo Tradition

Paintings done by academic and non-academic artists were used by the Catholic Church as instructional materials of evangelization. This art form flourished in the nineteenth-century New Spain during wars of independence in an era of increasing industrialization. This political situation brought about the secularization of the Church, and the industrialization introduced a new material: Sheets of iron coated with a thin layer of tin, which were used by artists to promote their images of faith and belief. The new and powerful art of retablos was then popularized due to this material’s durability, availability, low cost, and for its compatibility with commercial oil-based pigments attainable in assorted colors. This art tradition documents the people’s glorification of God and search for divine favor. Retablos were, and still are, found in the dwellings of the rich and poor in domestic shrines or displayed on walls of pilgrimage sites.