Definition of retable in US English:


(also retablo)


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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This relationship to Netherlandish wooden retables provides several clues both to the meaning of the gates and their method of production.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    ledge, bracket, sill, rack
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A painting or other image above and behind an altar.
      • ‘The most important form of folk painting is the retablo, which depicts a miraculous event.’
      • ‘In her paintings, she emphasized her Indian heritage, borrowing from ancient Mexican and popular art forms, such as retablos, or votive paintings.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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