Growing up, I was fascinated by a book my Dad used to have in his waiting room, which I used to look at anytime I was at his office. It was devoted to art inspired by the heart. On the cover, I remember, was a beautiful object which I did not recognize but was intrigued by nonetheless.
Later, I found out that the object on the cover was an ex-voto.
An ex-voto is an offering to God in a material form. These objects are given in fulfillment of a vow, or in gratitude or devotion – like a personal thank you note to God. Ex-votos are designed to be placed in a church or chapel where the worshipper seeks grace or wishes to give thanks. In many cases, they are signed and dated, with an explanation of why the giver is offering thanks.
These artistic objects are very personal, but also quite public expressions of faith in God and thanks for blessings received – which makes them really quite fascinating.
A stunning collection of ex-votos, so beautiful and inspiring! (Source: Veranda, Nov 2007)
Ex-votos come in many forms, from candles to paintings and metal objects. My favorites are the heart-inspired ex-votos, which are often made in silver or gold and encrusted with jewels.
French antique silver ex-voto (Source: alhambraantiques.com)
Ex-votos, in all their different forms, were intended not only for the worshipper giving thanks, but also as testimony to later visitors of the received guidance. The ex-votos would often be collected at a shrine, where pilgrims would gather to pray.
Like so many of my inspirations, these pieces too have strong ties with old Europe, as part of a religious tradition. Even today, collections of ex-votos can be seen at famous sites like the church at Montmartre in Paris.
From a design point of view, the ex-voto holds endless possibilities. I love the idea of collecting lots of these beautiful objects, and creating a lovely showcase.
French antique mother-of-pearl, glass and gilt ex-voto. (Source: alhambraantiques.com)
This is the original ex-voto that I had seen on the cover of my Dad’s book, symbolizing a perfect triangle of emotion – faith, love and beauty.