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Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos written in white lettering on a dark blue background.

A deity with a halo above their head floats above the scene of a child lying stricken in a bed with her mother kneeling in prayer. Ex-voto Anatomy is written in white lettering on an aquamarine background below the image. A doctor, his assistant, and a nurse attend to a girl's wounds at the local hospital. Italian tradition is written in white lettering on a red background below the image. Mexican Tradition A man wearing priestly robes stands near a full length cross surrounded by a white beam. Early medical guides is written in white lettering on a blue background below the image. A gallery of ex-votos. Below the image is written in white lettering on a gold background below the image.

Italian Tradition

The tradition of painted ex-votos is thought to have originated in Italy in the 15th century when wealthy patrons would commission artists to create a religious painting in which they would be depicted as the object of a healing miracle. As the ex-voto tradition spread from Italy throughout Europe it became popular among less wealthy populations, eventually falling out of fashion with the upper class. The tradition remained popular through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Close-up of Vincenzo Grimaldi, suffering from tuberculosis throws up blood into a basin, 1927, oil on tin.  From the Santuario dei Ss. Martiri Alfio, Cirino e Filadelfo, (Sanctuary of the Martyred Saints Alfio, Cirinio, and Filadelfo), Trecastagni, Sicily. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

A common disease in the 20th century, tuberculosis is characterized by frequent haemoptysis or coughing up blood. Hemmorhaging or bleeding is often depicted in a dramatic way in ex-votos by showing one large loss of blood in a single basin or pail.

Vincenzo Grimaldi has tuberculosis. His physician and several female relatives tend to him in his home while a family member prays to the Martyred Saints Alfio, Cirino,and Filadelfo for his swift recovery.

Vincenzo Grimaldi has tuberculosis. His physician and several female relatives tend to him in his home while a family member prays to the Martyred Saints Alfio, Cirino,and Filadelfo for his swift recovery, 1927, oil on tin.  From the Santuario dei Ss. Martiri Alfio, Cirino e Filadelfo, (Sanctuary of the Martyred Saints Alfio, Cirinio, and Filadelfo), Trecastagni, Sicily. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

"A miracle is performed by Saint Alfio for Vincenzo Grimaldi in the year 1927 in Catania"

A gold horizontal line

Sabastiano Gunsolo suffers from smallpox clearly visible as red marks on his face, chest, arms, and feet.  The woman at the left, most likely his wife or sister, throws up her arms in prayer to Saint Martha for Sabastiano's recovery while the doctor oversees his care, oil on tin. From the Chiesa dell'ospedale Santa Marta, (Church of the hospital of Saint Martha), Catania, Sicily. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

"A miraculous deed for Sabastiano Gunsolo on 8th of December"

Sabastiano Gunsolo suffers from smallpox clearly visible as red marks on his face, chest, arms, and feet. The woman at the left, most likely his wife or sister, throws up her arms in prayer to Saint Martha for Sabastiano's recovery while the doctor oversees his care.

Close-up of Sabastiano Gunsolo, lying on a bed, suffering from smallpox clearly visible as red marks on his face, chest, arms, and feet, oil on tin. From the Chiesa dell'ospedale Santa Marta, (Church of the hospital of Saint Martha), Catania, Sicily. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

A gold horizontal line

A miracle is performed by Saint Martha for the most devoted Gina Attina in March 1948 [Miracolo fatto di S. Marta alla devotissima Attina Gina a Marzo 1948]. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

Gina Attina falls from a second story window and injures her head. A doctor, his assistant, and a nurse attend to her wounds at the local hospital.

Close-up of Gina Attina while a doctor and nurse attend to her wounds at the local hospital. Courtesy Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania and Mario Alberghina.

"A miracle is performed by Saint Martha for the most devoted Gina Attina in March 1948."