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Ex-Votos: Home

Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos

June 23, 2014 - August 02, 2014

Location: Gumberg Library, 5th floor

Operating hours

8am-5pm, Monday-Friday

10am-5pm Saturday

Please note: Visitors from outside the Duquesne community should check in at the circulation desk.

ex votos

Image credit: Girl recovers from pneumonia 1925 Courtesy Historia Antiques

This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine.


Image credit: Carla Gulluffo in the month of March 7, 1904. Woman suffering from tuberculosis, 1904, oil on tin. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina

The expression "ex-votos" is a Latin phrase (literally translated as "votive offering") and defined as "an offering given in fulfilment of a vow or in gratitude or devotion" (The Penguin English Dictionary).

Ex-Votos art is created out of illness and recovery. The paintings document the moment of deliverance from illness, which the painter believes to have been the result of divine intervention. Religious figures, usually saints, Jesus Christ, or the Virgin Mary, are portrayed as being present during the deliverance, either physically or spiritually.

"Such vows and their tangible fulfillments should be understood not only as proofs of slightly skeptical religious faith, but also as specie [currency] within a spiritualized culture of exchange" (Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World)

This genre was especially popular during the Middle Ages, but ex-votos art continues to be produced today among European and Latin American cultures, especially those of the Catholic faith.

For further reading:

Joyce, Michele. "Ex-Votos: A Way to Say Thank You." Arts and Activities, 140.5 (January 2007). page 40.

Full text courtesy of ProQuest Central. Duquesne authentication may be required.

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
David Nolfi