This incredibly intricate retablo was created by Master Retablistas (retablo artists) Mabilón and Eleudora Jimenez from the Andean city of Ayacucho, Peru. The renowned Jimenez family has a long tradition of making beautiful retablos, wooden boxes with hinged painted doors that display scenes from everyday life. The tiny figures that populate the scenes are made of a doughy mixture of boiled potatoes, peach and agave juices and plaster powder. After they dry, they are intricately painted in gay colors with brushes made from cactus needles and the hair of cats and burros.
On the back of the retablo is the hand printed word "HERMANOS;" this translates from Spanish as 'brothers' but also 'brother and sister,' which is the correct translation in this case. The back also has the artists' signature "Eleudora y Mabilón Jimenez." The exterior, including the top, sides and gable above the doors, and the insides of the doors as well, are all decorated with their hand-painted polychrome floral designs, trimmed in sky blue. The interior depicts a celebratory cantina scene, with musicians playing and people dancing and drinking. The camerero (bartender) is standing behind the bar, pouring a drink. Above him on wooden shelves are displayed a multitude of bottles filled with libations such as Pisco, a Peruvian brandy.
In a major exhibition at the Museum of International Folk Art in New Mexico, retablos by Mabilón Jiménez were featured. Curators have commented, "He is a master artist/craftsman whose family is dedicated to the creation of the Ayacucho altarpiece..." (The word retablo is derived from the Latin 'retro tabula,' which means behind the (altar) table, where devotional images were typically placed. The retablo has evolved in Peru to depict not only religious scenes but those of daily life also.)
This retablo is 13 1/2 inches tall to the top of the gable, about 8 inches wide (doors closed) and 15 1/2 inches wide (doors open) It's 3 1/2 inches deep and weighs 3 1/4 pounds. In overall excellent condition, it's completely intact, with the tiny figures firmly in place. The artists used recycled wood, so there are bumps, lumps and small splits in the panels of the doors and sides. A former owner attached sturdy metal hangers on the back, as well as rubber bumpers to protect the wall, so it is ready to hang and admire. It is a beautiful, treasured folk art window into the contemporary life of the Andean people.