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Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598-1664 Madrid) and Studio
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Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598-1664 Madrid) and Studio

Saint Francis of Assisi in Prayer

Details
Francisco de Zurbarán (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz 1598-1664 Madrid) and Studio
Saint Francis of Assisi in Prayer
oil on canvas
45 x 34 7/8 in. (114.3 x 88.6 cm.)

Provenance
Puig Palau, Barcelona.
Anonymous sale [The Property of a Lady]; Christie's, London, 7 July 2004, lot 75 (£229,250).

Literature
P. Guinard, Zurbarán et les pientres espagnols de la vie monastique, Paris, 1960, p. 252, no. 369, as 'Zurbarán'.
J. Gudiol, Zurbarán, London, 1977, p. 115, no. 474, fig. 426, as 'Zurbarán'.
Antiquaria, October 2004, p. 95, illustrated, as 'Zurbarán y taller'.
Archivo Espanol de Arte, 2005, no. 310, p. 218.
O. Delenda, Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598-1664, II, Madrid, 2010, p. 47, no. A-7, as 'Zurbarán y obrador'.

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Lot Essay

As Jonathan Brown notes, the iconography of Saint Francis underwent a shift in the late-16th century, when the ‘benevolent man of charity was transformed into a fervent penitent’ (J. Brown, ‘Patronage and Piety: Religious Imagery in the Art of Francisco de Zurbarán’, in J. Baticle (ed.), Zurbarán, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1987, p. 17). Zurbarán’s treatments of Saint Francis in the early-to-mid-17th century were exemplary, probably his most successful and iconic compositions. And though he returned to the subject on multiple occasions, this particular composition appears to be unique in his oeuvre.

Until it was sold in these Rooms in 2004, the picture had remained in a private collection in Spain, and had not been seen in public. The style of his habit here would appear very similar to that in other variations (see for example the picture in the National Gallery, London, c. 1639, NG5655), with pieces cut from differently coloured cloth. Zurbarán explored the iconography of Saint Francis in a powerful and innovative manner, re-working the standard components of the composition: his cowl is either raised to obscure part or all of his face, or lowered; his hands are positioned at his waist or raised in prayer; sometimes he holds a skull; and he is either shown standing or kneeling. The lowered cowl here, revealing his face in profile, with his hands together in prayer, is a distinctive variation on this most iconic of representations.

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