Spanish Colonial, Mexico, ca. 19th century CE. A finely painted retablo on heavy gauge tin depicting the Christ Child as El Nino de Atocha - set in a stunning tin nicho adorned with rosettes at the corners and hand-painted glass panels that surround El Nino de Atocha with festoons of flowers. The tradition of the child may be traced back to Atocha, a suburb of Madrid, following the Moors' invasion, where pious prisoners were said to have been visited and nourished by a young boy dressed as a wandering pilgrim. Because of the miraculous nature of the child's appearance and bountiful offerings, it is accepted that he was a manifestation of the Child Jesus. He is shown in his traditional capelet and brimmed hat, a golden orb surrounding his visage, with a traveler's staff in his left hand and a basket of roses and perhaps bread in his right - flanked by two vases of roses - the entire scene framed by drawn curtains, this being a sign of Baroque influence. Size: 14.25" L x 9.75" W (36.2 cm x 24.8 cm); 17.625" L x 13.5" W (44.8 cm x 34.3 cm) including hand-painted glass paneled frame
Adding to the beauty of this piece, is the beautifully worked tin nicho presenting cut bronze rosettes at each corner as well as hand-painted glass panels depicting leafy festoons of blossoming red, blue, and pink flowers in the frame.
El Nino de Atocha is one of the most beloved subjects in Mexican retablo art. The child is known as the patron saint for freeing prisoners, believed to perform miracles for travelers and anyone in danger. According to popular legend, after the Moors invaded the town of Atocha, there was a prison occupied by Christians who lacked food and water and other fundamental necessities. The only visitors permitted were missionary children. However, one day after family members prayed, a child dressed as a pilgrim, carrying a basket, a staff and a gourd of water arrived. Miraculously, after serving every prisoner, his basket and gourd remained full. For this reason, the miraculous visitation was believed to be from the Infant Jesus.
Provenance: private California, USA collection
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Normal surface wear commensurate with age, but the painting is still quite vivid. Oxidation and some losses to corner rosettes as shown. A few fissures to the glass frame panels as shown, but the nicho is relatively well preserved.