The 17th century was the golden age of Spanish painting, thanks to a tremendous surge of artistic activity throughout Andalusia and especially in Seville, the economic, cultural, and spiritual centre of Spain. Gradually, however, many artists gravitated to Madrid, attracted by the presence of the royal court, although church patronage continued to play a very important role throughout the kingdom. During the first 20 years of the century, the dominant artistic trend was naturalism, further stimulated by the spread of Caravaggism and by works of art that reached Spain from Italy. An accurate depiction of reality and the orchestration of the interplay of light and shade were evident in the early works of the first generation of great 17th-century artists in Seville: Francisco Zurbaran (1598-1664), Diego Velazquez, and Alonso Cano (1601-67). Velazquez' youthful works, such as Old Woman Cooking Eggs (1618), already showed a powerful artistic language, used to convey the everyday life of ordinary people. His treatment of religious subjects shows an equally-realistic portrayal of form and chiaroscuro, an interest shared with contemporary Sevillian sculptors. In 1623, Velazquez first came into contact with Philip IV, from whom he was to receive many portrait commissions. He studied Titian's paintings in the royal collection in Madrid and met Rubens (who was in Madrid in from 1628 to 1629), but reached the height of his powers after his travels in Italy between 1629 and 1631, which made a profound impression upon him. His work is distinguished by a free and agile technique, using touches of vibrant and softly shaded colour and swift, looser brushwork to achieve a rare interplay between reality and illusion. The painter and sculptor Alonso Cano developed from an early lively naturalism towards the pursuit of a Renaissance-inspired ideal beauty, while Francisco Zurbaran's paintings convey an austere Iberian spirituality. In his figurative paintings, the sculptural figures stand out against dark backgrounds, epitomized in his Vision of St Peter Nolasco (1629), while his still lifes are intense and vibrant. Towards the middle of the centuiy Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-82) became extremely successful, having learned much from the previous generation of Sevillian painters such as Francisco Ribalta (1565-1628), whose style remained vigorously Caravaggesque, and the melancholy, strange Luis de Morales (1520-86) whose religious paintings, particularly his many Madonnas enjoyed considerable popularity. Murillo's devotional pictures are above all pleasing to the senses, emphasizing the consolatory aspects of religion with a sweetness that sometimes borders on the cloying. His tenderness of vision, which met with prolonged popularity, can be seen even in his genre scenes. The paintings of Juan Valdes Leal (1622-90) by contrast, were full of energy and drama. It was at this time that Flemish influence, ranging from Rubens to van Dyck , again played a decisive role in Spanish art, and Baroque taste prevailed in the development of large-scale fresco ciecoration in the grand manner. The greatest exponents of this style were Francisco Rizi (1614-85) and the court painters Juan Carreno de Miranda (1614-85) and Claudio Coello (1642-93).
(b Madrid, 1614; d Madrid, 2 Aug 1685).
Painter and stage designer. He may well have received his early training from his father, but most sources indicate that he was also a pupil of Vicente Carducho, who refers to him as such in his will of 1638, in which he bequeathed him the sketchbook of his choice among those in his studio. Rizi’s contact with the court was probably due to Carducho, and by 1639 he was working with Alonso Cano and other artists of his generation in Madrid (Antonio Arias Fernandez, Jusepe Leonardo, Felix Castelo, Diego Polo and others) on the decoration (destr.) of the Salon Dorado (or Salon Grande) of the Alcázar. The decorative scheme, which had been designed by Carducho, consisted of portraits of the kings of Castile. Many works by Rizi are recorded in the 1640s, and in 1649, on the occasion of the state entry of Mariana of Austria, the second wife of Philip IV, into Madrid, he was responsible for organizing the street decorations and the temporary architectural structures. At the same time he was working in the royal theatre of the Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, where he was engaged for many years, succeeding the Italians Baccio del Bianco and Cosimo Lotti as a specialist in theatre decoration.
Bartolome Esteban Murillo
baptized January 1, 1618, Sevilla, Spain
died April 3, 1682, Sevilla
the most popular Baroque religious painter of 17th-century Spain, noted for his idealized, sometimes preciousmanner. Among his chief patrons were the religious orders, especially the Franciscans, and the confraternities in Sevilla (Seville) and Andalusia.
Among Murillo's earliest works is the Virgin of the Rosary (c. 1642). In the vestigial style of his artistically conservative Sevillian master, Juan del Castillo, this early work combines 16th-century Italian Mannerism and Flemish realism. The 11 paintings that originally hung in the small cloister of San Francisco in Sevilla—e.g., the Ecstasy of St. Diego of Alcalá (1646)—are executed in the more contemporary naturalistic style of the Sevillian school, established by Diego Velázquezand continued by Francisco de Zurbarán. That series is characterized by realism and tenebrism (contrasting light and shade) and use of commonplace models, with an emphasis on genre or scenes of everyday life.
In the 1650s a striking transformation of style occurred, usually attributed to a visit to Madrid, where Murillo undoubtedly met Velázquez and studied the works of Titian, Rubens, and Van Dyck in the royal collections. The softly modeled forms, rich colours, and broad brushwork of the 1652 Immaculate Conception reflect direct visual contact with the art of the 16th-century Venetians and the Flemish Baroque painters. The St. Leandro and St. Isidoro (1655) are even further removed from the simple naturalism of his earlier Franciscan saints. These seated figures, more than life size, are in the grand manner of Baroque portraiture, which had become fashionable at the Spanish court.
The Vision of St. Anthony (1656), one of Murillo's most celebrated pictures, is an early example of his so-called “vaporous” style, which was derived from Venetian painting.In 1660 Murillo was one of the founders and first president of the Academy of Painting in Sevilla. During the two following decades he executed several important commissions, generally representing dramatized genre on a grand scale. From 1678 onward Murillo worked on another series of paintings, for the Hospicio de Venerables Sacerdotes in Sevilla, which included the celebrated Soult Immaculate Conception (1678). Murillo's late style is exemplified by his unfinished works for the Capuchin church at Cádiz and the Two Trinities (popularly known as the “Holy Family”). The often mystical significance of his subjects is countered by the idealized reality of his figures based on familiar human archetypes, with natural gestures and tender, devout expressions, creating an effect of intimate rather than exalted religious sentiment.