The latest in the series of themed exhibitions from the Museum’s growing collection of retablos is Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Francis of Paola. The retablos of these two saints are being shown together not only because of their shared name and religious order, but also because their depiction had much in common as did their mutual concern for all living creatures.
In Mexican retablos, Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), the founder of the Franciscan order, is represented as a young man in typical Franciscan attire often in an outdoor setting. Saint Francis of Paola (1416-1507), named after Saint Francis of Assisi, was the founder of the Foundation of Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi. In contrast to Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Francis of Paola is usually shown in Mexican retablos as an older man with the hood of his robe up and a staff in one hand. Both have been frequently portrayed throughout Mexican devotional art of the 19th century, although here only three show Saint Francis of Assisi, fifteen Saint Francis of Paola. Interestingly, one retablo, 2007.5.20, presents Saint Francis of Paola in the typical manner for this saint; however in this case he is also shown holding a crucifix, one of the attributes of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Today Saint Francis of Assisi is considered the saint of environmentalism and animals. Saint Francis of Paola is known as the saint of vegans, of sailors and of young girls looking for a husband. Although the retablos in this exhibition vary in style, size, and specific details, they all illustrate the strong influence of Franciscan evangelization in New Spain.