Plaques Give Thanks for Near-Misses

Plaque made by Italian craftsmen in thanks for a reprieve from tragedy

October 15, 2008. New York-based Constantin and Lauren Boym of Boym Partners are renowned for their Buildings of Disaster series, miniature limited-edition models of sites where tragic, historically-significant events have taken place. Their project is meant to be ironic, but while traveling recently, Constantin stumbled upon the real thing: ceramic votive plaques made by the craftsmen of Deruta, Italy, which memorialize near-misses and are given to the Virgin Mary in thanks. He made the discovery during a three-week stay at Umbria’s Civitella Artist Residency, and had this to say about it:

"Have a look at my recent find. A small church of Madonna dei Bagni, near Deruta, is filled with ceramic votive plaques, given to the Virgin for saving one from an imminent disaster or death. The plaques, known as PGR – an acronym for Per Grazia Ricevuta (For Saving Grace) – show in graphic detail car and airplane crashes, muggings and fires, falls from a tree, and vicious dog attacks. The oldest ones date to the 18th century; the newest are only a few years old. Remarkably, the tiles have been done without a trace of irony, not by hipster-artists, but by devoted craftsmen who believe in the redeeming quality of their (unsigned) work. "

In other words, you won’t be finding them at Moss anytime soon.