Friday, 17 February 2012

Infinitas Gracias

On the recommendation of my younger daughter's art teacher, we took a coach up to London yesterday to visit three of its lesser known museums housing 'collections'.  The first was Sir John Soane's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the second the Hunterian just across the square and the third the Wellcome collection on Euston Road.  Three fascinating collections of classical art, natural specimens, medical equipment, and art inspired by the human body.  If you haven't seen them and are ever given the opportunity to do so, then I highly recommend all or any of them.

The highlight for me was the Infinitas Gracias exhibition at the Wellcome, featuring over 100 Mexican votive images.  These are specially commissioned pieces of art, painted on tin roof tiles or plaques, offered to a saint as a sign of gratitude for a miracle.  The votives date from the 18th century to the present day and commemorate the answer to prayer in a variety of situations from ill health, to sexual infertility, to operations, to accidents, to criminal incidents, to sickness or loss of animals, to natural disasters, to revolutionary acts - a unique insight into the life of ordinary Mexican people and the faith that has enabled them to deal with its trials and tribulations.  The paintings vary from childlike pictures to sophisticated scenes but are all bold and brightly coloured, featuring characteristic depictions of the saints and a written description of the events along with their names and dates.  There were also audio visual interviews with some of the people involved, including the delightful Maria Isabel Cuellar who recalled her failure to cook a decent tortilla as a child.  In despair she prayed to Senor de Villaseca who eventually rewarded her faith, whereupon she presented him with her first successful tortilla as a votive offering.  As someone who has tried and failed, on several occasions, to make a passable mayonnaise, she had my sympathies. 

I found the simple faith portrayed by these poor Mexicans deeply moving, as was their compulsion to give thanks.  The website offers the opportunity to commission your own 'ex voto' and it has got me thinking of what I might like to give thanks for and how I would illustrate it.  I wonder ...


  1. We were talking recently about going on a trip to London - we haven't been for over 6 years. Falmouth & Truro museums often have some good exhibitions & we're fond of them both!

    Have a good weekend.

    Kay :)

  2. It only takes us a couple of hours to travel up to London. Public transport is getting dearer but free entry to most of the galleries/museums helps keep the overall cost down.

    We're also fairly well off for exhibitions in Bristol and Bath.

    I've visited both Truro and Falmouth but not any of their museums. What's on offer?