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Fall from a Balcony
Caída de un balcón

Retable

Artist/maker unknown, Mexican

Geography:
Made in Mexico, North and Central America

Date:
c. 1803

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
33 3/4 x 24 1/2 inches (85.7 x 62.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1950-134-492

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Label:
This painting is an ex-voto, a devotional image produced in gratitude to a saint or divinity for intervention in a dangerous situation. This type of picture dates back to the fourteenth century in Spain and Portugal and was brought to the Americas with Spanish settlers. Fall from a Balcony records a miracle that would be clear even without the carefully inscribed caption, which tells how, on February 22, 1803, Barbara Rico fell and dropped the young child in her arms several feet to the stone floor below. But through the intercession of the Virgin, the child landed completely unharmed.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    The making of a work of art as a pious act--to record and celebrate a miraculous event--is fundamental to nearly all cultures. In Latin America ex-votos, or paintings made as offerings of thanks for divine intervention, have been tremendously popular, particularly in Mexico, where retablo, the Spanish word for altarpiece, came to be applied solely to these works. Thousands of such paintings survive (and continue to be made), showing, often in very literal detail, the intervention of saints, and above all the Virgin Mary, in the disasters of daily life. Their naïve and direct ability to convey a narrative has held great attraction for many modern artists and collectors, in this case Walter and Louise Arensberg, better known for their Picassos, Duchamps, and Brancusis. The miracle that this retablo records would be clear even without the carefully inscribed caption, which tells how, on February 22, 1803, Barbara Ricco fell and dropped the young child in her arms several feet to the stone floor below. But through the intercession of the Virgin, the child landed completely unharmed. Joseph J. Rishel, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 350.

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