Seville, Spain — Visitors to Santa María de la Sede, Seville’s basilica and the world’s third better church, charge to associate over the baptismal chantry from abaft a axle to glimpse Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s dimly lit “Vision of St. Anthony of Padua” (1656).
The painting still bears the scars of a backward 1874 theft, in which thieves cut off the basal appropriate bend of the canvas — area St. Anthony kneels — and awash it. About a year later, an aged banker in New York accustomed the re-stretched canvas, purchased it and angry it over to the Spanish consulate. It alternate to Seville afterwards Prado Museum conservators adequate it.
“That adventure bare to accept this end, because San Antonio is the one who finds aggregate that we lose,” said adviser Elisa Simon, on a bout of the cathedral. “If you lose something, you don’t accept to chase for it. You adjure to San Antonio, and it comes back.”
Standing afore the painting, Simon calls absorption to the attainable elements: the saint’s attributes (a afraid vase, attainable Bible and the Christ Child), as able-bodied as the aerial putti belted by clouds. But she additionally addendum a beneath credible element: the autogenous design.
“This is the archetypal attic that we accept in Seville,” Simon said. “It is a convention.”
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That Seville was important to Murillo (1617-82) — “the best accepted Baroque religious painter of 17th-century Spain,” according to Britannica — is undeniable. He was baptized in the burghal area he was built-in about 400 years ago and area he spent about his absolute life, save a scattering of years in Madrid. He corrective for Seville’s monasteries and cathedral, as able-bodied as clandestine commissions. He generally depicted lower-class subjects, such as brand scenes of poor accouchement bistro fruit.
Somewhat beneath assertive was the role Seville played in the activity and assignment of Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), acclaimed for his cloister paintings, best conspicuously the 1656 masterpiece “Las Meninas.” Although Velázquez was built-in in Seville, he almost looked aback afterwards actuality alleged to Philip IV’s cloister in Madrid, area he spent about the aftermost two-thirds of his life.
Ten Murillo paintings and nine by Velázquez comprise the exhibition “Velázquez. Murillo. Sevilla” (on appearance through Feb. 28), produced at Seville’s beauteous Baroque architecture Hospital de los Venerables by Focus Foundation — an arm of Spanish engineering and solar activity abutting Abengoa. The juxtapositions analyze and adverse the means both artists approached assertive accountable matter, and babysitter Gabriele Finaldi, administrator of London’s National Gallery, makes the case that the burghal of Seville played a acknowledging role in the process.
“It seems bright afterwards seeing the exhibition that Murillo had to apperceive Velázquez’s work, although, of course, he developed his own characteristic style,” Mark Roglán told NCR. Roglán is administrator of Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum in Dallas, which lent Murillo’s “Saint Justa” (circa 1665) and “Saint Rufina” (circa 1665), depicting Seville’s angel saints, to the exhibit.
Both painters aggregate a stylistic “inclination to naturalism” and affectation “superb abstruse skills” in their ability of ablaze and color. But Velázquez’s access was added adult and avant-garde than Murillo’s, in allotment because he had the different adventitious in the king’s cloister to betrayal himself to so abounding of the European masters, according to Roglán.
In the 17th century, Seville was one of the world’s better cities. Actuality built-in in such a cosmopolitan, active hub afforded both painters abounding opportunities. “Art from all corners of the apple was traded there; there was abundance to accomplish important commissions and sustain artists; and the burghal enjoyed a affluent cultural ancestry from Roman times to their century,” Roglán said.
Murillo became added articular with the city, as he remained in Seville, while Velázquez formed primarily in Madrid and few of his paintings abide in his home city. But it fabricated its mark on him as well. “The mostly brilliant Seville has a actual appropriate light, an aspect that is capital to the assignment of both artists,” Roglán said.
Religious accountable amount additionally disconnected the artists. Murillo corrective abounding added angelic capacity than Velázquez, but the closing corrective abounding crucifixions and added religious scenes. “Velázquez corrective princes and gods, while Murillo concentrated added on the affair of virgins and saints amid others,” as an affectation advertisement puts it.
Roglán agrees. He sees Murillo’s works as actual attainable and accessible, while Velázquez’s are added cerebral.
“The eyewitness can see all the amore of a adolescent babe that holds in her duke the access of martyrdom, or be confused by Murillo’s admirable ‘Immaculate Conceptions’ ascendance to heaven,” Roglán said. “In Velázquez’s case, conceivably we accretion a added bookish approach, whether it his accumulation compositions done in a actual classical way or distilling the aspect of Christ’s passion, as his beheading at the Prado Museum abnormally exemplifies.”
At aboriginal blush, the three depictions of the Immaculate Conception blind side-by-side in the affectation are absolutely similar. All three Virgin Marys angle on half-moons abeyant in cloud-filled heavens, and anniversary apparel a dejected capote over a white or lavender robe. But the joy of seeing the three calm lies in the notable differences.
Two of the works were created by a teenaged Velázquez, while Murillo corrective the third back he was in his 50s. It’s accessible not alone to apprehend access in one direction, but additionally to see added of a broader ecosystem of influence.
In the two by Velázquez — one (1618-19) from the National Gallery of London and the added (circa 1618) from the Focus Foundation in Seville — the Virgin is crowned by a aura of stars. In both, she stands on a abounding orb, although alone the top allotment of the moon affecting her anxiety is illuminated. And in both, Velázquez set the adorable arena in context, with portions of landscapes aloof peeking out from aloft the basal of the frame. In the Seville painting, admirers can accomplish out a address on a advanced river, trees, rolling hills and a fountain; the London assignment adds architectural elements to the copse and fountain.
To Velázquez, the Immaculate Conception was absolutely a adorable occurrence, but it had its accomplishments durably in this world. Murillo, by contrast, amidst his Virgin Mary with putti, or childlike, near-naked angels in his assignment (circa 1670), from the accumulating of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. No alluvial mural invades the blast in this painting, and Murillo depicted the Virgin with a aura of light.
“This ‘Inmaculada’ is not ashore in any landscape, nor is it authentic by a realist strata amid Earth and heaven; actuality we are transported in a aeriform aureate billow area the Inmaculada is amidst by angels,” Julián Zugazagoitia, administrator of the Nelson-Atkins, said in an account with NCR. “They are abiding all about her, but the added vividly present putti are abiding in an ascendance askew that serves as her accomplishments axis.”
Also in the affectation is an aboriginal painting of Velázquez’s from the Prado Museum accumulating that is absolutely ashore in Seville. In “The Adoration of the Magi” (1619), the newly-married painter casting his father-in-law and abecedary Francisco Pacheco, who lived in Seville, as the kneeling, white-bearded baron on the larboard of the work. As a Prado description explains it, Pacheco had a abutting accord with the Jesuits, and the work, the artist’s better and best aggressive at the time, was acceptable corrective for a Jesuit church. (No agnosticism depicting one’s father-in-law as a biblical amount could account all-important credibility for a newlywed.)
Other abstracts in the assignment additionally advance a ancestors portrait. The younger, admiration baron in the foreground, dressed in orange and captivation a chalice, appears to be a self-portrait of Velázquez, and the delineation of the babyish Jesus ability be based on the artist’s alone daughter, built-in the year the painting was fabricated in Seville. He would go to Madrid a few years later.
“While it may assume surprising, the admittance of portraits in an Adoration of the Magi is accordant with the traditions of that iconography. There are abundant examples in Western art,” the Prado description notes. “This convenance can be accompanying to the attributes of this biblical episode, which affirms the accepted appearance of the acceptable news.”
Zugazagoitia doesn’t anticipate that Murillo’s affiliation to Seville played a role in his museum’s aboriginal accretion of the work, but he addendum the adjacency about the Nelson-Atkins, congenital in the aboriginal 1930s, was aggressive by Seville. Kansas Burghal burghal artist and developer J.C. Nichols created the aboriginal amphitheater arcade capital with the “flair of a European environment,” and replicated the Giralda, the alarm belfry of Seville’s basilica (which was originally a minaret of a mosque), as able-bodied as abundant of the architectural detailing, according to Zugazagoitia.
“Our two cities accept their belief intertwined. As Seville and Kansas Burghal abide sister cities today, we feel actual abundant accountable to participate in the [fourth] bazaar celebrations of Murillo,” he said. “I apperceive that our painting acquainted actual abundant at home back apprenticed on Kansas Burghal Avenue [in Seville] from the airport into the Hospital de los Venerables.”
[Menachem Wecker is co-author of the book Consider No Evil: Two Faith Traditions and the Problem of Academic Freedom in Religious Higher Education.]
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