Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682)

Saint Rose of Lima with the Christ Child

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682)
Saint Rose of Lima with the Christ Child
oil on canvas, unframed
48 3/8 x 42 ½ in. (122.9 x 108 cm.)
Private collection, Madrid.
E. Valdivieso, Murillo: Catálogo Razonado de Pinturas, Madrid, 2010, p. 199, no. 304, as a replica after a lost original.

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Lot Essay

Following the publication of his catalogue in 2010, Professor Valdivieso has subsequently inspected the picture in the original and has confirmed it as an autograph work.

The canonization of Saint Rose of Lima in 1671 prompted the creation by Murillo of a series of portraits such as the present lot, intended to preserve the young mystic’s memory and establish her cult. The picture is a work of Murillo’s maturity when, barely in his early fifties and the leading painter in Seville, the artist was at the height of his artistic powers.

Though the subject of the humble penitent enjoyed considerable popularity in the reformist climate of 17th century Spain, the figure of Saint Rose held particular emotional significance for the artist, as his own daughter, Francisca María, entered the Dominican convent of Madre de Dios the very same year of Saint Rose's canonization - taking the name Francisca de Santa Rosa in honour of the young penitent.

This picture is undoubtedly one of Murillo’s most tender depictions of this subject. Coloured by the artist's own personal devotion, this work reflects the characteristic simplicity with which Murillo approached religious subjects, making them familiar and accessible to the viewer. By contrast with the version in the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, for example, which emphasizes the heroic, self-sacrificing nature of the saint, the present picture seems to insist rather on her intimate relationship with God, as suggested by the Christ child who rests trustingly in her arms. Indeed, even the crown of thorns that the saint wore as a sign of her penitence is here included as an identifying attribute rather than a symbol of her extreme piety.

Perhaps, however, the most beautiful aspect of the composition lies in the delicate treatment of the various still-life details, which infuse the work with the artist’s characteristic and profound sense of realism. Of these, the virtuoso rendition of the scissors, thimble and threaded needle are especially noteworthy.

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