At this point of the year, when the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolomé Esteban MurilloSurprises still await the public. And the biggest one is in the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, the city in which Antonio Palomino, the author of his biography, was born and worked in 1724, called "the painter of Seville par excellence". In this monumental space, in which was the church of the former convent of Merced of Seville, you can be discovered to another Murillo, a modern painter, innovative in the use of light, risky in his compositions, committed to the society of his time and away from the beatific and sweetened interpretations propagated by National Catholicism. This is presented Murillo IV centenary, the anthology that opens this Thursday, with 55 works by the Sevillian painter, of which 20 had not been seen before in Spain.
A whole deployment made thanks to a score of international providers – among which are the Louvre (Paris), the National Gallery of London, the New York Metropolitan or the Galleria Corsini in Rome- and five nationals -such as the Prado and several private collections- that allow the production of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville, 1617-1682) to be traversed through unknown works in Spain, many of which left the country in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries acquired by foreign merchants or by European royal houses. "They are very intimate and gender devotional paintings in which portrays children and popular characters who were then more valued in Europe and who left very early in Spain, so they are less known," says Ignacio Cano, who has curated the exhibition together Valme Muñoz, director of the Fine Arts of Seville.
The rapine of Marshal Soult in the War of Independence, which in 1810 took some 180 works of the city, including more than 15 murillo, was the product precisely of that high valuation that was had of the Sevillian baroque in Europe. So much that Carlos III published an order in 1779 prohibiting the output of works of art: "It has come to the news of the King Our Lord that some foreigners buy in Seville all the paintings they can acquire from Bartolomé Murillo, and other famous painters, to extract them out of reyno", picks Ignacio Cano in a text that accompanies the catalog.
The Virgin with the child. Galleria Corsini (Rome)
The Virgin with the child. Gemäldegalerie alter Meister (Dresden)
Saint John the Baptist child. National Gallery (Dublin)
The sacred family (The two Trinities). National Gallery (London)
The Virgin of the Rosary. Dulwich Gallery (London)
Immaculate conception. Pérez Simón Collection (Mexico)
The Virgin with the child and oil sketch of The Virgin with the child. Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool)
Christ with the cross on his back. Musée Thomas Henry (Cherbourg)
Ecce homo. Colomer Collection (Madrid)
Painful Y Ecce homo. Particular collection
Christ on the cross with the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Saint John. Meadows Museum (Dallas)
Christ picking up his garments. Krannert Art Museum (Illinois)
San Pedro Y San Felipe. Galleria Nazionale (Parma)
The adoration of the Magi. Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio)
The old woman and the child. National Trust Collections (Gloucestershire)
Portrait of Juan Saavedra. Collection Duchess of Cardona
Portrait of Íñigo Melchor Fernández de Velasco. Louvre Museum.
Portrait of Don Andrés de Andrade y la Cal. Metropolitan Museum (New York)
"Our goal has been to illustrate the whole Murillo theme, but not all Murillo," says Cano, curator and head of the museum's Dissemination department. The exhibition, which can be seen until March 17, 2019, is the most ambitious of the many that have been made in the Sevillian gallery and one of the most complete on Murillo, an artist highly valued until the beginning of the twentieth century; but that in the last century it fell into oblivion. About 40 years after his death, Palomino wrote: "Outside of Spain we estimate a painting by Murillo rather than one by Titian or Van Dyck." This anthology complements the one organized by the Museo del Prado and the Royal Academy of London in 1982 and 1983, which brought together 77 works by the artist.
The route of the exhibition begins in the church hall with the works inside a structure that isolates them from the large canvases of other Baroque artists and continues in the temporary exhibition hall; although in the church the 17 works of the series of the convent of the Capuchins of Seville – another of the exhibitions of the year Murillo, which is celebrated in 2018 because the artist was baptized on January 1, 1618 but it is unknown what day he was born-; so the Fine Arts brings together 72 works of the painter who set in the collective imaginary the image of the Immaculate. According to the latest studies, especially the Reasoned catalog, published in 2010 by Enrique Valdivieso, 425 works by Murillo have come to us. And although the painter only left the city twice in his life, to go to Madrid, only 10% of his production remains in Seville.
The anthology is divided into nine thematic areas, from Holy childhood to El retrato; the latter, together with the spaces entitled Narrador de historias and Pintura de género, are, in the opinion of the curators, the most innovative. For Valme Muñoz, The weddings of Cana (1669-1673), a canvas lent by the Barber Institute of the University of Birmingham, is among the best works of the artist. "It is a very complex composition, with a game of looks between the characters that invite the viewer to enter the painting, in which the light penetrates several points creating a special atmosphere", explains the director of the museum; who also stands out The Nativity, an obsidian oil painting from the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the canvas Four figures on a step, of the Kimbell Art Museum (Texas).
Valme Muñoz, director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, and curator of the exhibition with Ignacio Cano, has focused on this new revision of Murillo in the supports he used for his painting and in his work methods. "Fortunately, because it is not easy, in this anthology we can see five sketches with the final oil paintings, something important to understand the artist's method of work," explains Muñoz. In addition to the sketches, which the artists kept as a presentation catalog for future orders, it is known that Murillo had a liber veritatis, a kind of sketchbook, from which the sanguine that may be part of the sample may have appeared.
"It is possible that Murillo drew with clarions [una especie de tiza que después se borraba] to fit the figures on the canvas, but those strokes disappeared under his brushstrokes and gave the feeling that there was no previous drawing. "For Muñoz, Murillo was at the height of the best European painters, as proof that he painted The Nativity on obsidian, "a very dark stone on which the figures seem to emerge". Support on which only two other works of the artist are preserved, which are in the Louvre.
The copper, on which he painted an Immaculate Conception, and two large tables recently restored, "which he painted almost at the end of the seventeenth century when all the artists had already moved on to the canvas", illustrate Murillo's versatility.