In the Post-Conquest era, much of the art Spain and Portugal's colonies produced was of a religious nature—furnishings for Catholic churches, chapels, monasteries, and for home altars. Our small-scale "santos," saint figures, small religious paintings and prints, retablos, niches, and crucifixes were mostly made for people's private, at-home devotion. Our one-of-a-kind objects date mostly from the nineteenth and early 20th century, and were once family heirlooms, sold in times of need or changing fashions.
In the Catholic Americas, the word retablo refers to a variety of devotional items. An altar retablo is the large screen behind an altar that typically contains a principal image such as a crucified Christ together with a number of saints’ images. In Mexico, a tin retablo, also called a retablo santo, is the painted image of a saint on a sheet of tin-coated metal, or earlier, copper or silver. In South America, a retablo can be a small portable altar, typically a box or niche, containing the image of a saint. In Peru, a retablo can be a box containing religious or secular scenes with many three-dimensional figures.