Francisco de Zurbaran

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Francisco de Zurbaran

Detail from Saint Luke as a Painter before Christ on the Cross. Widely believed to be a self-portrait.
Francisco de Zurbarán, (baptized November 7, 1598, Fuente de Cantos, Spain—died August 27, 1664, Madrid), major painter of the Spanish Baroque, especially noted for religious subjects. His work is characterized by Caravaggesque naturalism and tenebrism, the latter a style in which most forms are depicted in shadow but a few are dramatically lighted.
Zurbarán was apprenticed 1614–16 to Pedro Díaz de Villanueva in Sevilla (Seville), where he spent the greater part of his life. No works by his master have survived, but Zurbarán’s earliest known painting, an Immaculate Conception dated 1616, suggests that he was schooled in the same naturalistic style as his contemporary Diego Velázquez. From 1617 to 1628 he was living in Llerena, near his birthplace; then he returned to Sevilla, where he settled at the invitation of the city corporation. In 1634 he visited Madrid and painted a series of Labours of Hercules and two scenes of the Defense of Cádiz, which formed part of the decoration of the Salón de Reinos in the Buen Retiro palace. The Adoration of the Kings, from a series painted for the Carthusian monastery at Jerez, is signed with the title “Painter to the King” and dated 1638, the year in which Zurbarán decorated a ceremonial ship presented to the king by the city of Sevilla. The paintings for the Buen Retiro are the only royal commissions and the only mythological or historical subjects by Zurbarán that are known. His contact with the court had little effect on his artistic evolution; he remained throughout his life a provincial artist and was par excellence a painter of religious life. In 1658 Zurbarán moved to Madrid.

Zurbarán’s personal style was already formed in Sevilla by 1629, and its development was probably stimulated by the early works of Velázquez and by the works of José de Ribera. It was a style that lent itself well to portraiture and still life, but it found its most characteristic expression in his religious subjects. Indeed Zurbarán uses naturalism more convincingly than other exponents for the expression of intense religious devotion. His apostles, saints, and monks are painted with almost sculptural modeling and with an emphasis on the minutiae of their dress that gives verisimilitude to their miracles, visions, and ecstasies. This distinctive combination of realism and religious sensibility conforms to the Counter-Reformation guidelines for artists outlined by the Council of Trent (1545–63). Zurbarán’s art was popular with monastic orders in Sevilla and the neighbouring provinces, and he received commissions for many large cycles. Of these, only the legends of St. Jerome and of the Hieronymite monks (1638–39) that decorate the chapel and sacristy of the Hieronymite monastery at Guadalupe have remained in situ. Little is known of his production in the 1640s apart from an altarpiece at Zafra (1643–44) and records of a large number of paintings destined for Lima, Peru (1647). By 1658 both the style and the content of Zurbarán’s paintings had undergone a change that can be attributed to the influence of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. In his late devotional pictures, such as Holy Family and Immaculate Conception (1659 and 1661, respectively), the figures have become more idealized and less solid in form, and their expression of religious emotion is marred by sentimentality. Zurbarán had several followers whose works have been confused with his.

Encyclopćdia Britannica

St Agatha
Oil on canvas
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Agnus Dei
Oil on canvas, 38 x 62 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

St. Apolonia
Oil on canvas, 113 x 66 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Apostle St Andrew
Oil on canvas, 146,7 x 61 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

The Lying-in-State of St Bonaventura
Oil on canvas 250 x 225 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Christ Blessing
Oil on canvas, 99 x 71 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Christ on the Cross
Oil on canvas, 291 x 165 cm
Art Institute, Chicago

Defence of Cadiz against the English
Oil on canvas, 302 x 323 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

St Margaret
c. 1631
Oil on canvas, 194 x 112 cm
National Gallery, London

Meditation of St Francis
Oil on canvas, 114 x 78 cm
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires

The Vision of St Peter of Nolasco
Oil on canvas, 179 x 223 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Apparition of Apostle St Peter to St Peter of Nolasco
Oil on canvas, 179 x 223 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Adoration of the Magi
Oil on canvas, 264 x 176 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble

The Adoration of the Shepherds
Oil on canvas, 267 x 185 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble

St Hugo of Grenoble in the Carthusian Refectory
c. 1633
Oil on canvas, 102 x 168 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville

Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate
c. 1630
Oil on canvas, 21,2 x 30,1 cm
National Gallery, London

Still-Life with Pottery Jars
c. 1660
Oil on canvas, 46 x 84 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Still-life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose
Oil on canvas, 60 x 107 cm
Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

St Lawrence
Oil on canvas, 292 x 225 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Vision of Blessed Alonso Rodriguez
Oil on canvas
Museo de la Academia de San Fernando, Madrid


The Birth of the Virgin, c. 1625–1630, Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum.

The Young Virgin, Metropolitan Museum of Art

A Doctor of Law, 1635, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum