Friday, 3 February 2012


I've definitely broken my resolution to spend an hour a week in a museum or other cultural institution.  But I'm not going to abandon it, just try to keep it when I can.  So this afternoon I went to the Wellcome Institute to see their exhibition Mexican Miracle Paintings.  These are little paintings given to churches in thanks for miracles or answered prayers: freedom from prison or an unjust accusation, restoration of a long-lost son or a herd of goats, rescue from bandits or from death in battle, preservation in a train accident or lightning strike, recovery from an almost fatal wound or a scorpion bite, escape from flooding or a collapsed mine.  There are a lot of pictures of operating theatres and lots involving mothers and babies; in one of them a mother gives thanks that her daughter's baby has been acknowledged by her son-in-law.  They were commissioned by ordinary people, or maybe even made by themselves, I'm not sure, and they have quite long inscriptions explaining what happened.  I particularly liked one that started:
In Matehuala on 7th January 1937, Juan Hernandez became so drunk that he completely lost his senses, to the point of walking into the mountains where he passed out all night.
This was put up by his wife in thanks that he didn't die from the subsequent illness, but stayed alive to support her and her son.  It sounds like the start of a short story.

It made me want to commission a small painting to say thanks for something.  I'm not sure what, since my life has been happily free of dramatic injuries, and I've never been kidnapped by bandits.  Maybe I should commission a small painting being thankful for that.  But if you do have a more striking tale, you can leave it on the Wellcome website and they might get an artist to do a retablo based on it.  I don't much like the ones they've had done so far, because they're not really in the tradition.  But it seems like an interesting thing to do in conjunction with the exhibition.

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