Little fruit seller, Esteban Murillo

Esteban Murillo Spanish painter and legend of Seville

Little fruit seller, Esteban Murillo
Little fruit seller

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was an outstanding Spanish realist painter of the 17th century. Esteban Murillo’s work is autobiographical and closely related to the culture and traditions of Spain at that time. The evolution of the master took place at a turning point in the development of national art; the artist was seriously influenced by the ideology and aesthetic tastes of various strata of society. The people appreciated Murillo’s paintings for their cheerfulness and lyricism, and among the nobility, the artist was popular because of his virtuoso mastery of color and chiaroscuro, which gave amazing strength to his images.

Esteban Murillo, Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua
Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua

Esteban Murillo was baptized in a church in the city of Seville on the first day of January 1618. The exact date of birth of the painter is unknown, but it is assumed that the boy was born at the very end of December. Since in the seventeenth century they tried to baptize babies as quickly as possible.

Biography of Esteban Murillo

The reasons why the artist preferred the mother’s surname Murillo remain unclear, but the fact is confirmed by ancient documents that have not survived to this day. When the child was ten years old, his father, who worked as a simple barber, died. And a year later his mother followed the head of the family.

Esteban Murillo was brought up by an aunt who was married to a wealthy surgeon. The boy’s relatives took care of the boy and noticed his painting talent early on. Historians suggest that the first teacher of the little artist was the famous Baroque master Juan del Castillo at that time. Murillo was very young when the teacher left the city in search of work.

Esteban Murillo, Adoration of the shepherds
Adoration of the shepherds

Since 1639, the young artist began to work alone. He painted religious paintings and traded at a local fair. A year later, the painter moved to Madrid, where he managed to get to know Velázquez himself. Under his patronage, Esteban Murillo gained access to the royal repositories of painting, where he made copies of works by Pieter Paul Rubens and Titian (Tiziano Vecellio).

Two years later, Esteban received the first large order for a cycle of paintings for the Franciscan monastery in Seville, which speaks of the already established reputation of the young master. However, information about the first half of the genius’s life is not confirmed by historical documents and is more like a legend.

Esteban Murillo, Angel Rescuing St. Peter from Dungeon
Angel Rescuing St. Peter from Dungeon

The flowering of creativity

The heyday of the artist’s work fell on the 1650s, before that he managed to get married and survive the epidemic of the bubonic plague, which raged in Spain for several years in a row. Six years later, he wrote one of his most famous works “The Vision of St. Anthony of Padua ”and received a sum of ten thousand reais, unheard of at that time, for the painting. After 1658, the life of the master is already well documented it is known that at this time he moved to Madrid, being already a very wealthy man.

In 1660, Esteban Murillo took the honorary place of one of the directors of the Academy of Painting, which had just been founded in Seville. The pinnacle of the master’s career was the proposal to take the position of court painter instead of the deceased Velazquez. But he abandoned the tempting prospects and preferred a calm and prosperous life in his hometown. The death of his wife during childbirth greatly influenced the character of the artist. In 1664 he left a luxurious mansion and moved to live in the brotherhood of the Capuchins. And distributed most of his huge income to the poor.

Flight to Egypt
Flight to Egypt

The master only once agreed to leave his hometown for a long time, and this decision had fatal consequences. In 1682, he took an order for the painting of the Capuchin monastery and left for Cadiz. The work was carried out on the scaffolding, from which he inadvertently fell. Seriously injured, Esteban Murillo was brought to Seville, but he never recovered from the consequences of the fall and died on April 3, 1682.

Girl with fruit
Girl with fruit

Famous paintings by Esteban Murillo

The paintings of early Esteban Murillo are diverse, which is explained by the search for recognition among the general public. Some incompleteness of the composition and insufficient elaboration of the color scheme is caused by the large volume of works with which the artist earned a living.

After 1650, the painter’s paintings acquired grace and freshness, and the virtuoso “air” technique is still admired by modern researchers. The works written after the death of his wife are distinguished by tragedy and emotional tension, although sometimes Murillo managed to be distracted from the sad events of his life.

Holy Family, 1650
Holy Family, 1650
Famous works of the artist:
  1. The Kitchen of Angels (1646) is one of the most famous paintings of the cycle, written for a Franciscan monastery. The pretentious plot is imbued with secret humor. Caballero and the monk are horrified by the miracle they saw, and the image of the praying person is imbued with genuine prayer ecstasy.
  2. “The Holy Family with a Bird” (c. 1650) the scene is filled with the joy of family happiness, and there are no usual halos over the heads of the characters. It is believed that the artist painted a painting from his own life on canvas.
  3. “Our Lady of the Rosary” (c. 1650-1655) the image of the Madonna is understandable and close to the viewer, before whom appears a young resident of Andalusia with hidden sadness in her eyes, hugging her child.
  4. “The Fruit Seller” (1670-1675) refers to the paintings of the genre, for which the artist was adored by the common people. The girl counts the coins she earned per day, which she clearly will not have enough to live on.
  5. The Immaculate Conception (1680) is one of Murillo’s later works, where the image of the Madonna is already detached from everything earthly, but does not lose its warmth and expressiveness.
Mary's childhood
Mary’s childhood

Murillo, as a representative of the “golden age” of Spanish art, became known in Europe during his lifetime. And after his death his biography was overgrown with fictional facts, sometimes contradicting each other. The artist’s work was continued by numerous students and followers. His work had a significant impact on the subsequent development of national painting.

Two girls at the window, about 1670
Two girls at the window, about 1670