Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. late 19th century CE. Hand painted on heavy gauge tin, a very elaborate retablo depicting Saint Camillus de Lellis (also Camillo, San Camilo) in his black habit tending to an individual who appears to be dying or is already deceased with his pale complexion and hands crossed over his chest as he lies beneath billowing white sheets. San Camilo holds a lit candle in his left hand and a Crucifix in his right hand; the mood is one of last rites. An angel holding a Holy Book is positioned at the head of the infirm's bed as another angel flies toward the Virgin Mary and Crucifix at the upper left - devices designed to symbolize their intercession for his peaceful death. Three other monks kneel in prayer around the sick bed holding lit candles, Gospels, and other devices of prayer. Devilish or demon-like creatures seem to be everywhere in the scene - under the bed, peering through the window at the upper right, and emerging from the left border - contributing to the tension between good and evil. Size: 13.125" L x 9.875" W (33.3 cm x 25.1 cm)
Statements emerging from the demons' mouths add to the drama. One at the left foretells of the individual's potential demise, "Que lastima" (What a shame). Below him a demon states, "Pido Mesericordia" (He asked for mercy). Another animal of the underworld states, "Buelvan lo atentar" (Come back). The inscription, "Estas perdonando" (You are pardoned) appears next to Christ.
Saint Camillus is oftentimes called the "Red Cross Saint". He was the founder of the Ministers of the Sick where he instituted humane hospital treatment. In addition, his order wore a red cross on the right breast of their black habit, difficult to see in this retablo, although when one holds a flashlight to the habit, a faint outline of it is visible. Early in life, Camillus was rather dissolute - a gambler, he lost everything that he owned. Seeing the error of his ways, he devoted himself to the Franciscan Order and accepted work as a laborer at the Capuchin buildings at Manfredonia where he completed his conversion. He attempted to enter the novitiate of the Franciscans but was turned away, because of his diseased leg. And so he returned to the hospital of SanGiacomo, where he had been treated previously and devoted himself to treating the ill.
Provenance: private California, USA collection
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Expected surface wear, minor creases, scratches, and minute areas of pigment loss commensurate with age. Minute tears and losses at peripheries. Set on wooden mount that dates later than the retablo.