Hi everyone! This week I wanted to discuss an artwork by the famous Spanish baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. He was born in 1617, and he died in 1682. He was considered to be one of the best painters in Seville during his time. Many of his paintings are still well-known, and even reproduced on cards – especially within religious settings. I personally think he is one of the best Baroque artists because his technique, style, and subject matter make him a unique and amazing artist.
One of his famous paintings is called The Immaculate Conception of El Escorial, and it was created in 1660-5.
This is an oil painting that is now located in the Museo del Prado. This painting depicts the Virgin Mary’s conception. This is a belief that Mary was born free of Original sin; therefore, she was able to give birth to Christ because she lacked the flaw that all other humans have from Adam and Eve.
It is very common to see his subject matter painted with almost identical features in other paintings. In this painting, Mary is set within the yellow sky surrounded by baby angels and the clouds. Mary is a young adult, and she has a young and rosy complexion that shows off her beauty. Murillo makes her eyes almost sparkle, showing off his skill and the beauty that Mary possesses. Mary is wearing a white colored drape with her iconic blue cloak over her arms. She is in the middle of praying and looking up at the Heavens. Another feature that is common in paintings of this subject matter is Mary standing on a crescent moon.
On the bottom, she is carried by a group of baby angels, or putti. Almost all the babies are staring at Mary, except for two. One of them is staring at the baby on the bottom that’s resting on the cloud. The other one is right under Mary’s drape and cloak, and possibly her foot, and he is staring at the viewer. This baby is holding lilies, and his expression is calm and relaxed. It is almost like Murillo uses this baby to show the pure and relaxed notion of this event. Lilies are often a sign of purity, and they are very often associated with Mary. Therefore, maybe Murillo was trying to have the baby angel invite us into the painting and make it seem as though we are a part of giving these flowers to Mary.
Even though this doctrine was not inducted into the Catholic church until around 1854, it was still a common notion for people to believe that Mary was pure of sin. Also, in 1661 Pope Alexander VII declared that Mary is sinless. Therefore, this painting is often seen in the Baroque period by many different artists.
Feature image from Wikipedia