Definition of retable in US English:


(also retablo)


  • 1A frame or shelf enclosing decorated panels or revered objects above and behind an altar.

    • ‘The Keldermans family regularly planned or produced works of microarchitecture - choir screens, retables, tabernacles, and mantelpieces - and several of their designs were stipulated as prototypes for other buildings.’
    • ‘By the fifteenth century, retablos combined individual paintings, often of different sizes and in large groups, in a fixed architectural frame that was frequently at full architectural scale.’
    • ‘Through the screen's open central doorway a carved retable can be seen, but the altar itself is obscured by two angels who occupy the space, singing from a book.’
    • ‘This relationship to Netherlandish wooden retables provides several clues both to the meaning of the gates and their method of production.’
    • ‘Considerably more remarkable than the altar paintings are the reredoses or retables of carved and gilded wood (talha dourada) into which the paintings were inserted.’
    ledge, bracket, sill, rack
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A painting or other image above and behind an altar.
      ‘the retable of St. Vincent’
      • ‘The most important form of folk painting is the retablo, which depicts a miraculous event.’
      • ‘There are many paintings of the Passion, ranging from Memlinc's continuous representation of it in a single retable in the Turin Pinacoteca to Rembrandt's incomparable series in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.’
      • ‘Some non-funerary monumental medieval and early-renaissance retablos also seem to have incorporated images of the Vir Dolorum as a centrepiece, even when such works bore dedications to the Virgin.’
      • ‘She was printing on big sheets of aluminum in the spirit of Mexican retablos, and I wrote some poems for the images, and had them translated so they could appear bilingually.’
      • ‘In her paintings, she emphasized her Indian heritage, borrowing from ancient Mexican and popular art forms, such as retablos, or votive paintings.’


Early 19th century: from French rétable, from Spanish retablo, from medieval Latin retrotabulum ‘rear table’, from Latin retro ‘backwards’ + tabula ‘table’.