History of Medicine
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.
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.
"A miracle is performed by Saint Alfio for Vincenzo Grimaldi in the year 1927 in Catania"
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.
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.
"A miracle is performed by Saint Martha for the most devoted Gina Attina in March 1948."