BARTOLOMÉ ESTEBAN MURILLO

Life

Bartolomé was born in 1617, being the youngest of a family of fourteen brothers. His father, Gaspar Esteban, was a well-to-do barber, surgeon and bleeder who was sometimes treated as a bachelor. His mother, María Pérez Murillo, came from a family of silversmiths and counted among his close relatives with the painter Antón Pérez, married to María's sister. Therefore, it can be said that Bartolomé was born in a family more or less well off.

However, at age 9, and in the short term of 6 months, he was orphaned by his father and mother. One of her older married sisters, Ana, took charge of him with her husband Juan Agustín de Lagares, who also worked as a barber surgeon like Murillo's father.

Ana was the one who allowed him to frequent the workshop of the painter Juan del Castillo, married to the daughter of Antón Pérez, brother-in-law of Murillo's mother.

We have little documented information about the first years of Murillo's life and his training as a painter. It is known that, in 1633, with fifteen years, he requested a license to go to America with some relatives. For those years or something before, he must have already begun his artistic training.

Although there are no documents to corroborate it, it is very likely that the artist's life followed the steps according to Antonio Palomino, painter and treatise of the seventeenth century, described:

He trained in the workshop of Juan del Castillo, a relative of his mother and discreet painter characterized by the dryness of the drawing and the friendly expressiveness of their faces. The influence of Castillo is clearly seen in what are probably the earliest of the surviving works of Murillo, whose dates of execution could correspond between 1638 and 1640: The Virgin delivering the rosary to Santo Domingo (Seville, archbishop's palace and old collection of the count of Toreno) and the Virgin with fray Lauterio, San Francisco de Asís and Santo Tomás de Aquino (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum), of dry and cheerful colourful drawing.

Shortly after, it is not known for sure what date, but Murillo left his master's workshop to go to Madrid, where he was welcomed by Diego Rodríguez de Silva and Velázquez, another renowned Sevillian artist known worldwide as Diego Velázquez. Thanks to the help of his countryman, Murillo could appreciate the works of art of the Palace.

Other biographers, such as Sandrart, attribute him a trip to Italy, where he would supposedly grow up as an artist. But Antonio Palomino, who knew the artist in person and rubbed shoulders with many painters of the time, denied it. According to Antonio Palomino, all those years in which the track was lost to Murillo, he took advantage of them to learn the style that is manifested in his first important works, such as the paintings of the boy cloister of the convent of San Francisco, without leaving of Sevilla. Simply observing the work of artists of the previous generation such as Zurbarán and Francisco de Herrera el Viejo.

In 1630 he was already working as an independent painter in Seville and in 1645 he received his first important commission: a series of canvases for the cloister of San Francisco el Grande, a series composed of thirteen paintings that include The Kitchen of the Angels, the most celebrated work of the set by the meticulousness and realism with which daily objects are treated. This work is the Louvre Museum of Paris.

The success of this realization assured him work and prestige, so that he lived without problems and was able to maintain without difficulties the nine children Beatriz Cabrera gave him, with whom he married in 1645.

After painting two large canvases for the Cathedral of Seville, he began to specialize in the two iconographic themes that best characterize his artistic personality: the Virgin and Child, and the Immaculate Conception, of which he made many versions, up to 24. His virgins are always young and sweet women, probably inspired by the artist's known Sevillian ladies.

After a stay in Madrid between 1658 and 1660, in this last year he took part in the founding of the Painting Academy, whose address he shared with Herrera el Mozo. At that time of maximum activity, he received the most important orders of the altarpiece of the monastery of San Agustín and, above all, the paintings for Santa María la Blanca, completed in 1665. Later he worked for the Capuchins of Seville with his painting Santo Tomás de Villanueva distributing alms; and for the Hospital de la Caridad with a series of paintings on works of mercy.

A new cycle of bad harvests led to the famine of 1678 and two years later an earthquake caused serious damage. The resources of the church were dedicated to charity, postponing the embellishment of the temples. Because of that, the liturgical work of Murillo decreased. Even so, with the help of his old friends, he was able to continue receiving commissions, albeit smaller ones.

In 1682, working on a commission for the high altar of the Capuchins of Cádiz, he suffered a fall from scaffolding. It caused a hernia that he refused to be treated, finally, he died on April 3, 1682.

The work was completed by one of his many disciples, Francisco Meneses Osorio, and the canvas, The Mystical Betrothal of St. Catherine, is currently in the Museum of Cádiz.

His body was buried in the Church of Santa Cruz of Seville, the one that was in the District of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during the French invasion of the 19th century and the remains have never been recovered.

 

Legacy in Seville and the world

It is difficult to make a compilation of all his works since it has been calculated that he painted around 480 works, so we will mention the most outstanding ones and where to find them:

  • Young Beggar, 1645-1650, Louvre Museum, Paris.
  • Children eating grapes and melon, 1650, Alte Pinakothek of Múnich, Germany.

  • The vision of San Antonio de Padua, 1652, Cathedral of Seville.
  • Virgin of the Rosary with the Child, 1650-1655, Prado Museum, Madrid.

  • The Good Shepherd, 1660, Prado Museum, Madrid.
  • The Birth of the Virgin, 1660, Louvre Museum, Paris.
  • Immaculate Conception, 1662, Chapter Room, Cathedral of Sevilla.
  • The Dream of the Patrician, 1662-1665, Prado Museum, Madrid.

  • Saint Justa and Rufina, 1666, Museum of Fine Arts, Sevilla.
  • Virgin of the Napkin, 1666, Museum of Fine Arts, Sevilla.
  • Christ crucified, 1667, Prado Museum, Madrid.
  • Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cross, 1668-1669, Museum of Fine Arts, Sevilla.
  • The multiplication of bread and fish, 1667-1670, Hospital of the Charity, Sevilla.
  • Saint John of God with a patient, 1670-1672, Hospital of the Charity, Sevilla.

  • Saint Isabel of Hungary healing the scabby people, 1672, Hospital of the Charity, Sevilla.

  • The Children of the Shell, 1670-1675, Prado Museum, Madrid.
  • The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable, 1678, Prado Museum, Madrid.
  • The martyrdom of Saint Andrew, 1675-1682, Prado Museum, Madrid.

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