Votive objects or ex-votos are a broad category of material artifacts produced with the intention of being offered as acts of faith. Common across historical periods, religions, and cultures, they are presented as tokens of gratitude for prayers answered, as well as the physical manifestation of hopes and anxieties. Agents of Faith explores votive offerings in the context of material culture, art history, and religious studies to better understand their history and present-day importance. By looking at what humans have chosen to offer in their votive transactions, this volume uncovers their most intimate moments in life and questions the nature, role, and function of one of the most fundamental aspects of the relationship between people and things—the imbuing of objects with sentiment. Encompassing exquisite works of art as well as votives of humble origin and material, with objects dating from 2000 B.C. to the twenty-first century, the beautiful illustrations and wide-ranging text expose the global reach of votive practices and the profoundly personal nature behind their creation.

Table of Contents
Director’s Foreword
Susan Weber

Of Votive Things
Ittai Weinryb

Note to the Reader

Part I. Agents of Faith

1. Place, Shrine, Miracle
Jas Elsner

Terrestrial Gateways to the Divine
Alexandra Beuscher and Darienne Turner

2. Votive Materials: Bodies and Beyond
Ittai Weinryb

Edible Offerings: Food in Votive Culture
Michael H. Dewberry and Alexander Ekserdjian

3. Public and Private Dimensions of the Votive Offering
Christopher S. Wood

4. Memory and Narrative: Materializing Past and Future in the Present
Fredrika Jacobs

5. Votive Giving Today
David Morgan

Votive Giving and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Anne Hilker and alyssa Velazquez

Part II. Votive Objects in Time and Place

6. Clever Devices and Cognitive Artifacts: Votive Giving in the Ancient World
Verity Platt

7. Lob und Danck: On the Social Meaning of Votives in the German Pilgrimmage Culture
Mitchell B. Merback

Votive Wax: The Hipp Workshop in Pfaffenhofen
Nina Gockerell

8. In Serach of Blessings: Ex-Votos in Medieval Greater South Asia
John Guy

9. Votive Giving in Islamic Societies
Sheila Blair

10. Action in Form: African Art as Voiced Engagements
Suzanne Preston Blier

11. Votive Giving in the New World
Diana Fane and Fatima Bercht

12. The Contemporary Ex-Voto: Reenchanting the Art World?
Mechtild Widrich




About the Authors


Lenders to the Exhibition

Photographic Credits