Late 19th Century Original Retablo Oil Painting on Tin created in Mexico.
Retablo dimensions are approx. 10 inches horizontal x 14 inches vertical.
Condition: in fair, original condition with some minor paint loss acquired over more than a century of use and devotional prayer.
19th century Mexican folk retablo representing the "Nino de Atocha." El Nino de Atocha, one of the most popular subjects in Mexican retablo art, is the Patron Saint for freeing those imprisoned, and is also known for performing miracles for travelers and those in danger. This popular image originated in Spain after the Moors invaded the town of Atocha. According to popular legend, there was a prison filled with Christians who lacked basic necessities including food and water. Only missionary children were allowed to visit and one day after family members prayed a child carrying a basket, a staff and a gourd of water, came dressed as a pilgrim. After he served everyone in the prison both his basket and gourd were still full and it was then believed that the miraculous visitation was none other than the Infant Jesus.
Devotion to Holy Infant of Atocha originally began as a Marian devotion with a medieval statue of the Madonna and Child in Toledo, Spain. According to Juan Javier Pescador, it originally reflected devotions to three different depictions of the Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Atocha, Our Lady of Antigua, and Our Lady of Pregnancies that later coalesced into Our Lady of Atocha.
The image of the Divine Child was detachable, and devout families would often borrow the image of the infant when a woman was about to give birth to her child.
In the 13th century, Spain was under Muslim rule. The town of Atocha, now part of Madrid's Arganzuela district, was lost to the Moors, and many Christians there were taken prisoners as spoils of war. The Christian prisoners were not fed by the jailers, but by family members who brought them food. According to pious legend, the Caliph ordered that only children under the age of 12 were permitted to bring food. Conditions became increasingly difficult for those men without small children. The women of Atocha prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Atocha at a nearby parish, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to ask her son Jesus for help.
Reports soon began among the people of Atocha that an unknown child under the age of twelve and dressed in pilgrim's clothing, had begun to bring food to childless prisoners at night. The women of the town returned to Our Lady of Atocha to thank the Virgin for her intercession, and noticed that the shoes worn by the Infant Jesus were tattered and dusty. They replaced the shoes of the Infant Jesus, but these became worn again. The people of Atocha took this as a sign that it was the Infant Jesus who went out every night to help those in need.
The Holy Child of Atocha is depicted dressed as a boy pilgrim dressed in a brown cloak with white lace collar over a blue robe. He wears a brimmed hat with a plume and carries a basket full of bread in one hand and a pilgrim's staff in the other. The pilgrim's staff is often depicted with a water gourd fastened to it. On the cloak he wears a Shell of Saint James, symbol of the pilgrims to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The Child is said to roam the hills and valleys, particularly at night, bringing aid and comfort to the needy, and thereby wearing out his shoes. He is usually shown seated.
The Moorish conflict extended well beyond the town of Atocha. During dire points in their journey, travelers reported that a young boy, dressed as a pilgrim, would come to them bringing food and other necessities. The boy would often travel with them until they were out of danger and then guide them to the safest roads to reach their destination. Pious legends continued to be developed and the miraculous Child later became considered to be the Child Jesus and was given the title the Holy Child of Atocha.