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Sunday, December 30, 2018


What? Retablo? What the hell is a 'retablo'? Well, the short answer to start things off is it's what I made for my Honey, Rosa, for Christmas! The longer answer is well......longer.

If you look up 'retablo' you'll find that there are different answers and you'll even see a search prompt suggesting "Peruvian retablos".....but even that can lead to a correct, but incomplete, answer. The typical Peruvian retablo, as colorful folk art looks like this:

As produced in rural areas in the Andes, the retablo often depicts a combination of religious Nativity and depictions of Andean culture.... in a colorfully decorated shallow box with doors.

Here is a small one we were given by Rosa's mother:

Here again is a Nativity and accompanying Andean scene.

But the origins of this tradition go back to much more classic, European-inspired Baroque altarpieces, like this one:

Here you see a combination of shallow spaces for both two-dimensional paintings and three dimensional sculptures. It is a duality that persists even in modern retablos.

And so, one can research 'retablos' and find examples of very classic paintings ensconced in elaborate shallow decorative pieces, often accompanied by doors.....very reminiscent of Orthodox Icons:

Here is a beautiful example that even contains a drawer.

In the much more Spanish-influenced city of Cusco in Peru, there are shops everywhere that sell detailed, gilded 'retablos' which look more like extremely elaborate frames:

A very typical example of a Cusco retablo.

When we were in Cusco, Rosa and I loved these so much, we bought one thinking it was the perfect accent for our Renaissance-themed dining room:

Our retablo, which we bought empty and into which I placed a depiction of St. Michael slaying the Dragon.......which is SO perfect for a couple into hosting backyard RenFaires!  LOL

However, as much as I loved this style of retablo, my Honey kept feeling a nostalgia for the more rural examples discussed earlier. And at one point, Rosa just asked me if I thought I could make one for her. It is important to mention at this point that despite her desire to have her own two-door Nativity-based retablo, Rosa's tastes do not lean towards the almost garish palette that is typically used in the Andean retablos. And since we decided that if I did make one, it's 'home' would be in our dining room, I had to see if there was any basis for some artistic compromise, and after some searching, lo and behold, there was:

This setting is rendered in much more classic and muted tones than the typical there was precedent!

And this example proved that the box could be peaked rather than rectangular with a triangular facade. 

Armed with these possibilities, I went about collecting what I'd need. One day we found a two door shallow box with shelves in a second-hand store, and then I found an inexpensive collection of small Nativity figures on eBay. I used some customizing techniques to alter some of the figures so that they would look like a combination of the various types of cultures one would find throughout Peru......from the colorful Andes people, through the Afro-Peruvian population descended from slaves, all the way to European Spaniards. And this is what I came up with and ultimately presented to my Honey:

Rosa's retablo closed. I decided upon keeping the floral designs rustic, while muting the palette to correspond with the room.

And here it is open.

I used the interior to depict two traditional Christmas scenes....the Nativity and the procession of the Magi. For the interior doors, I decided to try to use the classic geometric border designs used in Peruvian tablecloths and shawls but in a way as to evoke the feeling of stained glass church windows. And on the middle shelf, I depicted an assembly of Peruvian people all making their offerings of homage:

It was a lot of detailed work, but I was pleased with the result......and more importantly so was Rosa! For more on Peruvian retablos, check out this Wiki (link).


  1. Excellent work KD and a nice lesson to boot.

    1. Thank you, Joe. I'm glad there are visitor/readers out there who don't resent posts that are not about DD or spanking. As much as I love those topics, there is just so much more to life for online friends to share.

  2. This is a wonderful piece of art and a very special gift. I would be thrilled to receive a gift that took the giver so much time, effort and skill to assemble. Bravo!!

    1. Thank you very much. Gifts from the heart do tend to mean more.

      But we'd also love to know who you are. We always welcome posters who stay on topic, but ask that even if their account is "anonymous" they add some sort of 'online name' at the end of their comment so we can tell everyone apart.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Merry. And I love the history behind it too.