The easy availability of tin in the early 1800s led to the development of retablos, oil paintings on tin depicting Roman Catholic saints or holy people. The metal was cheap and durable—especially compared with wood, canvas and linen, materials vulnerable to moisture.
But as this exhibition’s subtitle, At Home With the Saints, demonstrates, common threads bind these objects, regardless of time period, marketing or cost. The functional objects here—paintings, sculptures, lithographs, candles—remain in use as worship aids in private settings (most often the home). And in the gallery setting, believers and nonbelievers alike can appreciate the objects for their beauty and cultural impact.