For over three centuries the present work remained in the collection of the Counts of Ibangrande, Spain, whose descendants sold the painting at auction in Madrid in 2001, when its true authorship was obscured by dense layers of dirt and accretions that covered the paint surface. It was only following a professional restoration in London that, as stated by the leading Zurbarán scholar Odile Delenda:
‘then appeared the indisputable qualities of the work which permit it to be accepted as a totally autograph work' More
The simplicity and defects of the compositions are amply surpassed by the great plastic force with which he endows all the elements in the painting, by treating each one as unique and individual. It is also noteworthy for the extraordinary skill in depicting the qualities of the materials. The technique is fluid and light, as he moves away from his initial Tenebrist style towards the creation of luminous paintings and a skilled use of colour. More
In 1638 Zurbarán received an order from the Carthusians of Jerez which consisted principally of two parts: five large and two small canvases for the monumental altarpiece of the church, and eight portraits of distinguished members of the order, accompanied by two images of angels with censers, which were installed in a narrow passageway leading to a small room behind the altar where the host was kept. Four of the major altarpiece paintings depict the Infancy of Christ, and for sheer magnificence of colour and spectacle, they are unsurpassed in the artist's work. One of these paintings is the Adoration of the Magi.
This painting is a version of the composition employed by Velázquez. Zurbarán takes this scheme as his point of departure and enriches it by substituting rich colourful costumes for the plain serges worn by the magi of Velázquez, although fundamentally the paintings are similar in their use of large figures, the suppression of illusionistic space, and the air of high solemnity. More
It is a work from Zubarán’s early career stage and is signed and dated in the centre of the lower section, next to the saint’s habit. It was ceded in 1821 by Dean López Cepero to King Ferdinand VII, who gave it to the Prado Museum. More
Saint Peter the Apostle; Christian Apostle, Also known as Simeon, Simon, Cephas, Born in Bethsaida, Israel, Died c. 64 in Rome, Italy. Saint Peter the Apostle, original name Simeon, or Simōn (died c. ad 64, Rome), disciple of Jesus Christ, recognized in the early Christian church as the leader of the disciples and by the Roman Catholic church as the first of its unbroken succession of popes. Peter, a fisherman, was called to be a disciple of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. He received from Jesus the name Cephas (i.e., Rock, hence Peter, from the Latin petra). More
Saint Peter Nolasco (1189 – 6 May 1256). With St. Raymond of Penafort, founder of the Order of Mercedarians, the religious community which sent members as ransom for Christian prisoners in the hands of the Saracens. Details of his life are uncertain, but he was probably a native of Languedoc, France. After taking part in the crusade against the heretic Albigensians of southern France, he became a tutor of King James I of Aragon and then settled at Barcelona. There he became friends with St. Raymond of Penafort, and in 1218, with the support of James I, they laid the foundation for the Mercedarians, devoted to the ransoming of Christian captives. Twice Peter went to Africa to serve as a captive, and it was reported that during one journey to Granada and Valencia he won the release from Moorish jails of some four hundred captive Christians. Retiring in 1249, he was followed as head of the order by William of Bas. He was canonized by Pope Urban VIII in 1628. His feast day is now confined to local calendars. More
Elizabeth showed an early enthusiasm for her Faith. She said the full Divine Office daily, fasted and did other penance, as well as attended twice-daily choral Masses. Religious fervor was common in her family, as she could count several members of her family who were already venerated as saints. The most notable example is her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, after whom she was named. More
A Spanish princess, Elizabeth (Isabel) was married at age 12 to King Dinis of Portugal. Dinis apparently was a good king but a difficult husband who frowned on his wife’s charity—a predicament a lot like that of Elizabeth of Hungary, Isabel’s great-aunt. Their legends run along the same floral lines. As Isabel took bread to the poor, her husband confronted her; she said she was merely carrying flowers and when she opened her cape, roses came tumbling out.
Not only was Isabel a long-suffering wife and charitable queen, she appears to have been a brilliant architect, designing a number of buildings across Portugal and overseeing their construction.
Rainha Isabel‘s greatest miracles, however, involved the transformation not of flowers but of armies. She managed to maintain the peace between her combattive son and King Dinis for the throne of Portugal and later with the princes of Castile.
Rainha Santa Isabel is venerated in Zaragoza, Spain, and with great affection throughout her adopted homeland of Portugal. For her powers of peace, she is invoked “in time of war.” More
The miracle occurred on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Saint Hugh, bishop of Grenoble, sent meat to the friars, who were discussing the possibility of perpetual abstinence. Through divine intervention, they fell into a deep sleep for 45 days. When Saint Hugh visited them, they awoke and saw with astonishment that the meat had turned into ash, and took this a sign that they should resume their lives with increased austerity. More
Saint Hugh of Châteauneuf (1053 – 1 April 1132) was the Bishop of Grenoble from 1080 to his death. Born at Châteauneuf-sur-Isère, France, Hugh showed piety and theological facility from a young age. While still a layman, Hugh was made a canon of Valence. His piety was such that it was said of him that he only knew one woman by sight.
At the Council of Avignon in 1080, he was elected bishop of Grenoble, though he was not yet ordained. The See of Grenoble had fallen into a very poor state and Hugh was selected to be its Gregorian renovator. Conducted by a papal legate to Rome, Hugh was ordained by Pope Gregory VII himself.
For the rest of the 11th century, his episcopate was marked by strife with Count Guigues III of Albon over the possession of ecclesiastic lands in the Grésivaudan, a valley in the French Alps. An accord was finally reached between Hugh and Count Guigues only in 1099. The Count agreed to cede the disputed territories while Hugh admitted to the Count's temporal authority within the vicinity of Grenoble.
Hugh was also instrumental in the foundation of the Carthusian Order. He received Bruno of Cologne, perhaps his own teacher, and six of his companions in 1084, after seeing them under a banner of seven stars in a dream. Hugh installed the seven in a snowy and rocky Alpine location called Chartreuse. Hugh also founded the nearby Monastère de Chalais, which grew into an independent order.
Hugh was canonised on 22 April 1134 by Pope Innocent II, only two years after his death. During the French Wars of Religion (between Catholics and Protestants inspired by John Calvin, called "Huguenots"), the Huguenots burned his body. More
He met St. Peter Nolasco and became a Mercedarian in 1222. The Mercedarians’ goal was to free Christian captives held by Muslim states, and Serapion offered himself as a hostage at Algiers in exchange for some Christian captives. When the ransom money did not arrive in time (or because he refused to stop preaching Christianity), Serapion was killed. According to Christian tradition, he was nailed on an X-shaped cross and was dismembered. More
Saint Serapion or The Martyrdom of Saint Serapion is a 1628 oil on canvas commissioned by the The Mercedarian Order to hang in the De Profundis (funerary chapel) hall of their monastery in Seville (now Museum of Fine Arts of Seville).
Saint Serapion is depicted by Zurbarán in a quasi-crucified pose, standing with each hand bound by ropes and chain to an overhead horizontal pole. According to Michael Brenson of the New York Times, his head "has shifted from the realm of the robe to the realm of the cape, which supports the head and seems to have the potential to lift it to the sky". The painting stops at the figure's knee level, while the strain placed on his arms is indicated by the heavy hanging folds of the drapes of the cloth hanging from left shoulder and right outstretched arm. The saint is identified by text on a small note placed to the left of his chest area.
The dominance of the white paint used to render the cloth creates a sense of tranquility, while the tension of the painting is derived from the dark shade created from the deep folds of the robes. In 2003, Scottish painter Alison Watt wrote, "Each fold has been pared down to the basic elements of light and shade. As a viewer you are seduced by this simplicity, only to realise you have been duped. Zurbarán has elevated the humble fabric of the robes of Saint Serapion to a divine level with pure, magnificent white. More
She is said to have been born in Braga, Portugal, to Lucius Catilius Severus, Roman governor of Gallaecia and Lusitania, and Calcia, his wife. Marina was one of nine daughters. Calcia, frightened that her husband would interpret this multiple birth as a sign of infidelity, ordered her servant Sila to drown the girls in the Miñor River.
Disobeying her mistress, Sila, secretly a Christian, left Calcia's daughters in the care of several families. Marina and her sisters were baptized by the bishop of Braga Saint Ovidius and brought up in the Christian faith. When they were twenty, they were accused of being Christians and brought before their father the governor. He recognized them as his own daughters, and asked them to renounce their faith, promising them luxuries.
The sisters refused and were imprisoned. They managed to escape and were ultimately martyred for their faith. A spring of water gushed out of the spot where they were beheaded; the spot was called Aguas Santas ("Holy Waters"). More
St Lawrence is thought to have been born in Huesca, a town in the Aragon region that was once part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Here he encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin, one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers in Caesaraugusta (today Zaragoza), which was one of the empire's most renowned centres of learning. Eventually, both left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained St Lawrence as a deacon, and though still young appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called "archdeacon of Rome", a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church and the distribution of alms among the poor.
St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Sixtus was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed forthwith.
After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Saint Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that St Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. More
Zurbarán confidently combined the colours with daring contrasts, using intense tones. The figure of the angel is filled with solemnity and elegance. The use of the strong colour of the tunic, which marvellously contrasts with the bodice, and the details in the drawing and the folds are impressive. More