Virgin of the Immaculate Conception
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Oil on canvas (ca. 1670)
Murillo was one of Spain's greatest 17th-century painters, known for his atmospheric renderings of religious scenes. The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception is a later work painted in what is called Murillo's vaporous style. Here surface textures soften, and contours appear to dissolve in the shimmering atmosphere, lending a gentle, otherworldly aspect to the subject of the painting. A belief of the Latin Church for centuries, the Immaculate Conception holds that the Virgin Mary was conceived naturally in her mother's womb, but with immunity to Original Sin. As the second Eve and the mother of Christ, she was proclaimed to be spotless or "immaculate." The crescent moon on which the Virgin stands is the spiritual symbol of the Immaculate Conception.
Family Portrait in a Landscape
Gonzales Coques developed a portrait style that combined the intimacy of a small-scale painting with the grandeur of court portraiture. Here, this family displays their wealth by posing in a garden setting decorated with ornamental features taken from the artist’s repertoire of stock accessories. The black groom leading a horse does not necessarily represent an actual person, but would have been perceived at the time as an “exotic” status symbol. Artists regularly inserted African youths into portraits even when their sitters did not retain black servants in their households.
Oil on canvas (1630)
Saint Jerome was born in 347 and died in 420. Jerome was known for translating most of the Bible into Latin and his teachings on Christian moral life. An interesting anachronism in this is Bloemaert painting Jerome with glasses which were not invented until around 1290 in Italy. It most likely was done on purpose to give a studious appearance.
The Entombment of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 1636/1637
Francisco de Zurbarán
Saint Catherine was a 4th-century princess of Alexandria who vowed to devote her life to God and was martyred for refusing to marry the Emperor Maxentius. After torture by fire, she was condemned to death on a spiked wheel, shown in the painting's right foreground. When Catherine touched the wheel, it miraculously fell apart, and so she was beheaded. Zurbarán depicts the deceased saint being lifted by angels who will transport her to the top of Mount Sinai, her burial place. Typically Baroque, the action of the painting nearly spills into our own space, and its deep shadows reflect the widespread influence, in this instance extending beyond Italy into Spain, of Caravaggio.