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Property from a Private Collection

Santa Rosa of Lima

Santa Rosa of Lima
oil on canvas
19 1⁄4 x 14 3⁄8 in. (48.9 x 36.5 cm.)
Blakeslee Collection, probably Theron J. Blakeslee (1853-1914), New York.
with Cottier & Co, New York, by 1918.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 14 December 1990, lot 32 (£286,000), when acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

This intimate depiction of Santa Rosa of Lima would appear to be a modello for Murillo's celebrated painting of the saint now in the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, a work considered to be one of the artist's: 'most poetic visions of prayer and contemplation of the divine' (M. Mena Marqués and E. Valdivieso, Murillo, exhibition catalogue, London, 1982, p. 192, under no. 70). It is a mature work, dating from circa 1671 when Murillo was firmly established as the leading painter in his native Seville. Murillo here depicts an episode from the saint’s life; while praying in the convent garden and sewing to make money for her parents, the Infant Christ appears before her, seated on her work-basket. The artist's delicate treatment of details such as the cushion, basket and book imbue the work with his characteristic and profound sense of realism. There are a sufficient number of differences between the present canvas and the larger Lázaro Galdiano finished painting to question whether it was executed as an independent commission for another patron, or indeed for the artist himself. The most conspicuous of these include the absence of the saint's halo, the extension of her rosary, the inscription issuing from the Christ Child's mouth, and in the rendering of the garden and buildings in the background.
Santa Rosa of Lima (1586-1618) was not only a figure that held great contemporary relevance, but she was also of profound personal importance to the artist. She became the first saint of American origin when canonized on 12 April 1671, an occasion that had a significant impact on the Catholic world, particularly in Seville with its strong ties to the Peruvian religious community through the Dominicans. In the same year Murillo’s only daughter, Francisca Mariá, took vows in the Dominican convent, Madre de Dios, and assumed the name of Sister Francisca Mariá de Santa Rosa in honour of the young penitent. Angulo dated the Lázaro Galdiano picture to this moment and suggested that the work was connected with his daughter’s vows (Murillo, II, Catálogo Crítico, Madrid, 1981, p. 291, no. 370), an argument seemingly strengthened by the existence of two copies in the Seville convent.
A picture of Santa Rosa of Lima, shown half-length with the Christ Child, once thought to be a replica after a lost original, but now considered an autograph work by Murillo, was sold in the Rooms, London, 10 July 2015, lot 159, sold for £218,500.

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