Bartolome Esteban Murillo

The Holy Family with a Bird - Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1617 - 1682
The Holy Family with a Bird - Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1617 - 1682

Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1617-1682

Murillo is one of Spain's greatest painters.He was born in Seville, and lived in the city for most of his life.

He belonged to the same 17th-century Baroque school as Velazquez and Zurbarán, and formed part of the Golden Age in Seville.This prosperous period was thanks to the wealth which poured into the city from new South American colonies; the arts flourished in Seville, then the largest city in Spain, and one of the most important in Europe. With more than 60 Catholic convents and monasteries, the city was also an important religious centre.



These painters were admired for their baroque religious paintings showing softly luminous saints in beautiful, richly-coloured robes, commissioned by churches and convents to inspire awe in the common populace, but also to delight the aesthetic sensibilities of the wealthy.

Unusually, Murillo also painted realist images of street children (The Young Beggar, The Girl with Flowers), offering us a fascinating insight into life in Seville in the 1600s.

You can see his paintings in many locations in Seville, including the Museo de Bellas Artes, the Hospital de la Caridad, and the Cathedral.

In 2017-2018, Seville celebrates Año Murillo, the fourth centenary of the painter's birth.

Childhood and early Career

The youngest of 14 children, the painter was probably born in San Lorenzo or San Vicente in Seville, and was baptized at Santa Maria Magdalena church.His father was a barber-surgeon (Murillo was his mother's second surname), though sadly both his parents died before he was ten. He then went to live with one of his sisters and her husband.

At the age of 14 he began painting, partly to support his family. Then, in his 20s he studied Flemish art, and in 1642 he went to Madrid and saw works by Zubaran and Velazquez, all of which had a great influence on his work.

In 1645 Murillo was commissioned to produce 13 paintings for San Francisco monastery in Seville (this no longer exists; was located where Plaza Nueva is now). After this, he specialised in painting the Virgin and child.

Marriage and children

Around this time Murillo married his wife, Beatriz Cabrera, in Seville. They had 11 children, of whom four died in the terrible plague of 1649, which wiped out half the city's population. Miguel Mañara, founder of the Hospital de la Caridad,was godfather to two of his children.Beatriz died in 1656, leaving him a single father of five children.

Madrid and later career

From 1658-1660 he lived in Madrid; several years later, he founded the Academia de Pintura (Academia de Pintura) in Seville, where another important commission was the paintings for the main altarpiece of the Convento de losCapuchinos(no longer exists; was at Puerta de Cordoba), as well as paintings for Santa Maria La Blanca church.

Murillo died in 1682, at the age of 64.



His influence

The painter's work was much copied around the world, making him one of the best-known Spanish artists. Murillo influenced painters such as Gainsborough

His work was held in great affection, partly for its air of informality - The Holy Family with a Little Bird depicts Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a surprisingly normal family: the mother gazies adoringly at her baby son as heleans against his father and plays with a dog, in an unusually earthly, even domestic, setting.

Where can you see his work?

Inside Seville Cathedral, you can see 15 of Murillo's paintings, including his San Leandro and San Isidoro in the Sacristy, while in the Chapter House his Inmaculada Concepcionhas pride of place on the circular wall. Other locations where his work can be seen are the Hospital de la Caridad, and the Museo de Bellas Artes,.

You can visit the painter's house in barrio Santa Cruz (calleTeresas).


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