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Breast cancer between faith and medicine: the Peres Maldonado ex-voto

Abstract

An ex-voto (from the Latin for ‘from the vow’) is an image made to express the patron's gratitude for divine assistance in the face of personal difficulty. Here, we describe a late 18th century Mexican painting that shows Doña Josefa Peres Maldonado undergoing a mastectomy, and, as an ex-voto, expresses her thanks for divine aid in having survived the operation. As such, the painting manifests Doña Josefa's response to her disease, drawing on both medical and religious sources of support. This brief report analyses the unusual double dedication of the ex-voto, the elaborate home altar it depicts and the surgical technique it demonstrates.

  • Religion and medicine
  • medicine in art
  • breast neoplasms
  • mastectomy
  • art and medicine
  • history of medical
  • cancer care
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