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Full text of "Murillo"

MASTERPIECES 
IN COLOU R 

EDITED BY - - 
T. LEMAN HARE 



MURILLO 

1618— 1682 



.. 



Masterpieces in Colour" Series 



.ST. 

VELAZQUEZ. 

REYNOLDS. 

TURNER. 

RGMNEY. 

GREUZE. 

BOTTICELLI. 

ROSSETTI 

BELLINI 

FRA ANGELICO. 

REMERANDT. 

LEIGHTON. 

RAPHAEL. 

HOLMAN HUNT 

TUT AN. 

MILLAIS 

CARLO DOLCI. 

GAINSBOROUGH. 

TINTORETTO. 

LUINI. 

FRANZ HALS. 

VAN DVCK. 

LEONARDO DA VINCI. 

RUBENS. 

WHISTLER. 

HOLBEIN. 

BURNE-JONES. 

VIGEE LE BRUN. 

CHARDIN. 

FRAGONARD. 

MEMLINC. 

CONSTAELE. 

RAEBURN. 

john s. sargent. 

lawrence. 

dCrer. 

MILLET. 
WATTEAU. 
HOGARTH. 
MURILLO. 

WATTS. 
INGRES. 



Author. 
S. L Bensusan. 
S. L. Bensusan. 
C. Lea ib Hind. 
C. Lewis Hind. 
Ans Eyre Macklin. 
Henry B. Binns 

LuClEN Pl-.SASRO. 

GEOiGE Hay. 
James Ma 

i Israels. 
A. Lys Baldry. 
Paul G. Konodv. 

MaKY E. CoLESIDGE. 

S. L. Bensusan. 

A. Lys Baldry. 

George Ha\ . 

Max Rothschild. 

S. L Bensusan. 

Ja':e= Mason. 

Edgcumbe Staley. 

Percy M. Turner. 

M. W. Brockwell. 

S. L. Bensusan. 

T. M«rtin Wood. 

S. L_ Bensusan. 

A. L\'S Baldry. 

C. Haldanb MacFall. 

Paul G. Konody. 

C Haldanb MacFall. 

W. H. J. ac J. C. Weal*. 

C. Lewis Hind. 

James L. Caw. 

T. Mast;:. Wood. 

S. L. Bensusan. 

H. E. A. Fcrst. 

Percy M. Tcrner. 

C. Lewis Hind. 

C Lewis Hind. 

S. L Bensu£^_v. 

W. LoFTi.5 Haxe. 

A. J. Finbesg. 



Others in Preparation. 



PLATE I.— THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. Frontispiece, 
(From the Louvre, Paris) 

This greatly admired canvas is one of the painter's many studies 
of a familiar subject. There are more than a dozen pictures of the 
Immaculate Conception whose authenticity is undisputed, and there 
are many others on offer in Spain, clever and sometimes old imita- 
tions of the master's mannerisms. In this case the figure of the 
Virgin is rather over-elaborated, but the treatment of the attendant 
cherubs is delightful and the composition very skilful. 



MURIIXO 



BY S. L. BENSUSAN 

ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT 
REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR 




LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK 
NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO. 



■Kl 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Plate 

I. The Immaculate Conception . Frontispiece 

From the Louvre, Paris 

Page 

II. The Beggar Girl 14 

From the Dulwich Gallery 

III. The Holy Family 24 

From the Louvre, Paris 

IV. Madonna of the Rosary . . .34 

From the Dulwich Gallery 

V. The Beggar Boy 40 

From the Dulwich Gallery 

VI. A Boy Drinking 50 

From the National Gallery, London 

VII. The Nativity 60 

From the Louvre, Paris 

VIII. The Marriage of the Virgin . . 70 

From the Wallace Collection 
▼ii 




THERE have been long years in which 
the name of Bartolome Esteban, known 
to the world as Murillo, was one to conjure 
with. Velazquez, El Greco, Ribera, Zur- 
buran, Goya, were long uncertain in their 

9 



io MURILLO 

appeal, recognised only by the enlightened 
among their contemporaries and ignored by 
the great majority of their fellow-country- 
men. The pendulum of taste swings slowly 
from one extreme to the other, and, as the 
moods and needs of men change so they 
cast their idols into the dust, where they re- 
main until another generation restores what 
it can find to the old pedestals. Nowadays 
Murillo has fallen from his high estate 
among the elect ; they prefer to magnify his 
shortcomings rather than to acknowledge 
his many merits, to ignore the splendid 
service he rendered to Spanish art and the 
profound effect of his pictures in drawing 
countless simple souls within the shelter- 
ing folds of the Church. The fifty years of 
his devoted labours count for nothing, the 
self-searching and criticism that enabled 
the painter to move from a low plane to 



MURILLO ii 

a high one are forgotten. This is not as 
it should be. Bartolom6 Esteban Murillo 
had his limitations, but remains, despite 
them all, one of the world's teachers, and 
such glimpses of his life as may be seen 
through the shadows of some two hundred 
and fifty years reveal him as a serious 
artist who added to splendid natural gifts 
a steadfastness of purpose, a determination 
to do his best, a love of Andalusia, and a 
devotion to the religion in which he was 
brought up that must compel the admiration 
of thinking men however critical, and en- 
able the artist to stand alone. In the 
early years of his sojourn he suffered from 
the pinch of poverty. He was born when 
Diego de Silva Velazquez was just about 
to enter upon his splendid career, in fact, 
Murillo would have been about five years 
old when his great contemporary left Seville 



12 MURILLO 

for Madrid. Perhaps if we could see with 
understanding eyes we might be tempted 
to believe that the less distinguished artist 
enjoyed the happier life, for Velazquez in 
the court of kings had much to endure 
that never troubled the younger man who 
laboured in the service of the King of 
kings, and may have seen such visions as 
lightened the labours of Beato Angelico in 
the Convent of the Dominicans of St. 
Anthony in Padua, and St. Francis in 
Assisi. For the best of Murillo's canvases 
whisper to us of inspiration, of devout be- 
lief, and of an overmastering love for the 
"Maria santissima," and when the simple- 
hearted painter saw that his work brought 
honour to the cathedrals and convents 
for which he laboured he must have felt 
that his art was its own exceeding great 
reward. 



PLATE II.— THE BEGGAR GIRL 
(From the Dulwich Gallery) 

We should prefer to call this picture the Flower-seller, for the girl 
is not really a beggar at all. Her clothes are worn with some 
approach to nicety, and she carries roses that command a ready sale 
in Seville if the seller be attractive and young. Murillo has given 
us a very charming type of Spanish girl, and has obtained some 
striking colour harmonies. 



MURILLO 15 

To this day Andalusia is a country of 
dreamers, and Seville, despite its electric 
trams and motor cars, its barracks and 
cosmopolitan hostelries, is par excellence 
the city of dreams. How much more so 
then, three hundred years ago, when 
Murillo was born to enjoy its beauty? In 
Seville wealth is a mere accident, even the 
poor may return thanks without mental 
reservation for the nugatory gift of life. 
Faith flourishes to-day in the agnostic 
generation as of old time, blended with 
what we would regard as superstition, but 
sharing this fault with all the Latin 
countries. In the Cathedral and the Cari- 
dad, to say nothing of smaller religious 
houses, the pictures of Murillo still remind 
us that to the Catholic religion the world 
owes the worship of a woman. To Murillo, 
God and the Virgin were not pale abstrac- 



16 MURILLO 

tions; they were his father and his mother, 
for he was hardly more than ten years old 
when his earthly parents fell victims to 
one of the epidemics so common in 
Europe in days when sanitation and isola- 
tion were not understood. 

For twenty years, the most impression- 
able of his life, Murillo lived alone. Those 
who sneer at his work in these early times 
ignore the conditions under which it was 
done, forget that the cost of canvas and 
pigment was a very serious item in his 
exchequer, and that his reward was of the 
smallest. Wealth never came his way 
until he was no longer quite young, but as 
his circumstances became easier he did all 
that in him lay to express his message 
more completely and, while his labour was 
unremitting, his last work was his best, and 
included masterpieces that may hold their 



MURILLO 17 

own in any company, even though it 
include the masters before whom artist 
and layman bow the head. Murillo has 
been cheapened by forgers and copyists 
who have succeeded in placing many of 
his shortcomings and very little of his 
quality on their hurried canvases. Every 
picture dealer in a Spanish city of any 
pretensions has a Murillo or two that he 
is prepared to vouch for even though the 
canvas gives the lie to his protestations. 
The artist's work has been used shamelessly 
for purposes of advertisement, it has paid 
the fullest penalties of popularity, and yet, a 
real Murillo in the best manner is a picture 
to which we can turn again and again, to 
find over and above the conquest of tech- 
nical difficulties and the beauties^ of colour 
the qualities of imagination and inspiration 
that are associated with the select few in 

B 



18 MURILLO 

every branch of creative work. One might 
go as far as to say that Seville would lose 
as much as Madrid if the Murillos were taken 
from the one and the Velazquez pictures 
from the other. There would be no hesita- 
tion on the writer's part to say as much if 
the capital of Andalusia had never been 
rifled of its proper store by the French 
conquerors of Spain. It is not in foreign 
galleries that one must go to see the work 
of a great artist, but in the city that was 
his home — the city wherein the sources of 
his inspiration linger and his pictures find 
an appropriate setting. Transplanting is 
not good for anything. The trees and 
flowers, the birds and beasts of a foreign 
land may endure in a clime for which they 
were not intended, but there is no more 
than an arrested growth ; they cannot do 
justice to themselves. Frankly and without 



MURILLO 19 

reserve we admit that Murillo was almost 
as much an Andalusian as a painter, but 
when we know his city and his work there, 
a fine picture in the National Gallery or 
the Louvre will bring Seville back to us 
as surely as a sea-shell brings back the 
ceaseless murmur of the waves. 

II 

THE ARTIST'S LIFE 

Murillo came into the world with the 
close of the year 1617, and was baptized in 
a church destroyed during the French in- 
vasion nearly two hundred years later; the 
record of his baptism is preserved to-day in 
the Church of St. Paul. History is silent 
about his early years, but the authorities 
make it clear that his parents were among 
the very poorest of the city and that he 



20 MURILLO 

was brought up in the old Jewish quarter, 
always the abiding place of indigence and 
suffering. In all probability he roamed the 
streets of the Triana and the Arrebola, 
little better off than the beggar boys who 
were destined to provide so much striking 
material for his brush. When his parents 
died of the plague that visited Seville the 
lad and his sister were adopted by an 
uncle who was a struggling doctor. Times 
were bad in spite of the epidemic ; probably 
there was more demand than payment for 
medical services of the quality that Don 
Juan Lagares could offer: but his little 
nephew's cleverness with brush and pencil 
was too obvious to escape notice, and Don 
Juan del Castillo, one of the city's leading 
painters, was induced by the doctor to 
accept the lad as a pupil without payment 
of a fee. 






MURILLO 21 

In the studio of a moderately successful 
artist a pupil would be required to do men- 
ial work — to grind colours, clean brushes, 
sweep floors; he would pick up what he 
could of the master's methods when he 
had nothing else to do. It was no good 
apprenticeship for a beginner whose youth- 
ful talent required direction from a bigger 
man, but beggars cannot be choosers, and 
doubtless uncle and nephew were grateful 
to Castillo, who has few claims upon our 
memory save in his capacity as master of 
Seville's great painter. He found a willing 
pupil whose work was admitted to some 
of the poorer religious houses in the city 
when he was only fifteen, and the relations 
between the two would seem to have been 
pleasant, for Murillo worked in the studio 
for ten years or more, and probably received 
some small regular payment in return for 



22 MURILLO 

his services as soon as he had demon- 
strated their value. Then Juan del Castillo 
moved to Cadiz, and Murillo remained in 
Seville. Judging by his actions in years 
to come, he remained because the city was 
very dear to him ; he would undoubtedly 
have been useful to his master, and beyond 
doubt the closing of Castillo's workshop 
left him at the age of twenty-three in dire 
financial straits. He had his sister to 
support, and the means of doing so were 
of the smallest, for he was only known to 
the poorer brethren of the Church who had 
few commissions to offer and very little to 
pay for them. The best paid work was in 
strong hands and, if no high dignitaries of 
the Church in Seville knew much about 
the struggling painter, it must be confessed 
that he had not done much to attract or 
to deserve attention. He was an artist in 



PLATE III.— THE HOLY FAMILY 
(From the Louvre, Paris) 

This is one of the masterpieces of the Paris collection, beautiful 
alike in conception, colouring and composition, with all the merits 
of the artist in evidence, and the most of his weaknesses conspicuous 
k by their absence. 



MURILLO 25 

the making just then, and the making was 
a slow and painful process. 

Without the means for pursuit of serious 
study and with urgent need for present 
pence, the young painter was forced to do 
as the lowest members of his class were 
doing, and he did work not unlike that 
with which needy gentlemen adorn street 
corners in our own year of grace. To be 
sure he did not choose a pitch and decorate 
it with busts of the reigning family, the 
ruling minister, a church, a ship at anchor, 
and a flock of sheep in a snowstorm, but 
he purchased the cheapest and coarsest 
cloth he could buy, cut it up, stretched it, 
and painted pictures for the Fair. 

At least once a week there would be a 
Fair in the Triana or Macarena, every day 
would witness the arrival there of country 
farmers and dealers with something to buy 



26 MURILLO 

or sell; and when a man's store or purse 
was full, when he had eaten well, and was 
conscious of the joy of life, he would often 
consent to become a patron of the arts in 
response to the petition of some needy son 
of the brush who showed him a flaming, 
flaring picture of a Madonna or a Holy 
Family, or produced a piece of unspoilt 
saga-cloth and offered to paint a portrait 
almost as quickly as the itinerant photo- 
grapher of Brighton beach or Margate 
sands can prepare the counterfeit of his 
victim with the aid of evil-smelling collodion 
plates. Such pictures were always to be 
bought at the Feria, though the writer has 
not found itinerant artists at the Fairs of 
either Seville or Cordova in the past few 
years— perhaps they can make more money 
by painting "genuine Murillos" for small 
dealers and owners of shops that sell 



MURILLO 27 

second-hand goods. Doubtless, the young 
painter was a quick worker, his gifts in 
those days were readily expressed, and 
when he lacked a commission from any of 
the visitors to the Fair he prepared a few 
canvases for traders who sent them to the 
religious houses of South America, where 
the influence of Spain was so widely and 
heavily felt. It is not easy to guess how 
long he would have been content with 
such work, but when he had followed it 
for about two years a great change came 
into his life, and for the first time he be- 
came acquainted with better things. 

In the studio or workshop of Juan del 
Castillo he had formed a friendship with a 
lad from Granada, one Pedro Moya, who, on 
leaving Castillo, seems to have followed art 
and war and to have served his native land 
in the Low Countries, where there were 



28 MURILLO 

ample chances for the soldier of fortune 
who had the good luck to pass unscathed 
across the stricken field. Moya's talent 
was stimulated by a chance acquaintance 
with Van Dyck's work, and in order to study 
this great master he retired from the army 
and left for London, where Van Dyck, then 
in the last year of his life, admitted him as 
a pupil. When Van Dyck had passed away, 
Moya found his occupation gone, so he left 
our fogbound shores for his native Andalusia, 
took up his residence in Seville, and re- 
newed his friendship with his old friend and 
fellow-student. Murillo soon found in his 
friend's work qualities he had never seen 
before ; they revealed the poverty of his own 
efforts, and filled him with an overmastering 
desire to travel and to learn. It was easier 
to feel the desire than to respond to it. 
Italy, then as now the Mecca of the Spanish 



MURILLO 29 

artist, was far beyond his reach, but he had 
heard stories of the success that had come 
to his fellow-countryman Velazquez in 
Madrid, and thought that if he could go 
to him he would gain a little of the advice 
and instruction of which he stood so much 
in need. With this idea he entered into an 
arrangement with a picture exporter, who 
carried on a large trade with South America, 
and undertook to paint a large number of 
works at a special price. Working at high 
pressure he completed the order, received his 
pay, placed his young sister under the care 
of friends, and shook the dust of the Maca- 
rena from his feet. His road lay towards 
the North, and once in the capital of Spain, 
he presented himself before Velazquez. 

We do not know much about the private 
life and character of the greatest of Spanish 
painters, but the little that is known is all 



30 MURILLO 

to his credit. He did not hesitate to take 
the raw, ill-trained lad of five-and-twenty 
under his protection, though his only claims 
upon the Court painter were his talent and 
such kinship as may be said to exist be- 
tween two men, the one distinguished, the 
other unknown, who hail from the same city. 
What Velazquez did was done thoroughly. 
As soon as he was satisfied of the bona 
fides of his visitor, he gave him a home, 
examined his work, and pointed out its de- 
fects, procured his admission to the royal 
galleries, and advised him to copy the work 
of Ribera and Van Dyck. These oppor- 
tunities were all Murillo required. He could 
not have seen or hoped to see Velazquez 
very often, for the Court painter was a 
man whose leisure was much restricted, but 
he settled down to his work, and for two 
years or more was a painstaking copyist 



MURILLO 31 

who lacked no opportunities. Velazquez, 
not content to do all he could unaided, had 
even shown his pupil's work to his own 
patron the Duke of Olivares then still at 
the zenith of his power and, either directly 
or through Olivares, had brought it before 
the notice of the king. When Velazquez 
returned from Lerida in 1644, Murillo had 
made so much progress that his patron 
thought he was quite fit to complete his 
studies in Italy, and offered him the neces- 
sary introductions and money. 

All lovers of Murillo must wish that he 
had availed himself of the opportunity, but 
in the circumstances it is not altogether 
surprising that he did not. Doubtless, he 
had heard Seville calling through all the 
days and nights of his sojourn in Castile. 
Madrid is not a pleasant city to those who 
know the South, and then, too, the young 



32 MURILLO 

painter would have been lonely, and must 
have remembered that his sister, his only 
near relative, would be anxiously awaiting 
his return. He had learned a great deal ; 
he may have felt that his gifts such as 
they were would secure him a good living 
in his own city, perhaps he felt he had 
assimilated as much as he could express 
for many years to come. We cannot tell 
what was in his mind, though to those of 
us who have fallen under the spell of Seville 
there is not much difficulty in forming an 
opinion about it, and we are inclined to 
think that his decision offended his splendid 
patron, for the two great Sevillians never 
met again. Henceforward Murillo's home 
was to be in the city of his birth, and his 
work was to be limited by the commissions 
that the city could yield him. Doubtless, 
he travelled gladly to the South to take up 



PLATE IV.— MADONNA OF THE ROSARY 
(From the Dulwich Gallery) 

The Virgin sits enthroned, with the Holy Child on her knee and 
attendant cherubs at her feet. Her expression is full of sadness. 
The composition is admirably thought out and the colouring 
effective. 



MURILLO 35 

his residence in the Plaza de Alfaro, and 
display his latest work to men who might 
possibly become his patrons. He had left 
Seville unknown and undistinguished, now 
he had enjoyed the advantage of training 
under the greatest Sevillian of all. 

He was still poor, and his poverty in- 
duced him to accept an ill-paid commission 
from the fathers of the Franciscan convent 
for eleven pictures. Fresh from the long 
course of study in Madrid, conscious that 
this his first chance might be his last if he 
did not do his best, he set to work and 
produced a series that roused the city to 
enthusiasm. Literally, he woke one morning 
to find himself famous. The Franciscan 
convent was destroyed by fire in 1810, but 
the pictures were not lost, for Marshal 
Soult had carried off ten out of eleven, and 
the other had passed into the gallery of a 



36 MURILLO 

Spanish grandee on its way to this country. 
The French invaders of Spain were con- 
noisseurs as well as soldiers, and in con- 
sideration of their flair we may at this 
time of day overlook the shortcomings in 
their ethical code. Murillo had made the 
Franciscan convent famous ; the Franciscans 
had put their painter beyond the reach of 
monetary trouble and had settled for him 
the lines his talent was to follow. The 
painter of a picture, like the writer of a 
book or a play, must pay this one tribute to 
success; he must do the work that the 
public looks for. Should he venture to dis- 
cover himself in other directions his early 
patrons will turn and rend him. Happily 
the whole trend of this artistic talent was 
in the direction of sacred picture painting, 
and in the years that follow we find little 
else from his hand save a few portraits 



MURILLO 37 

and a landscape or two of minor import- 
ance. 

It may occur to the reader to ask what 
was the special quality of Murillo's work 
that made so prompt an appeal to his 
countrymen, and the answer is not far to 
seek. Hitherto sacred subjects had been 
dealt with in most unattractive fashion. Art, 
the handmaiden of the Church, had delighted 
in the presentation of ascetic figures as 
far removed from struggling humanity as 
the heavens are above the earth. Saints 
and martyrs looking as though they were 
newly escaped from the grip of the Inquisi- 
tion were to be met with on every side ; 
the virtues, the kindliness, and even the 
humanity of the lives of saints and devotees 
altogether were ignored. Murillo peopled 
his canvas with an entirely new class of 
people, as human and as fascinating as the 



1 & k q i p 

- J- o -J b 



38 MURILLO 

Sevillians themselves. On Murillo's canvases 
his fellow-countrymen saw no more long- 
drawn agonies of martyrdom, but gracious 
Madonnas and delightful Children, and 
Saints who had not been soured in the pur- 
suit of righteousness. It was a revelation 
to Andalusia this strange new view of holi- 
ness, this mingling of the heavens with the 
earth, this insistence upon a common bond 
that united the aureoled saint with the 
sick beggar to whom he gave alms. Then, 
too, the rich almost sensuous colouring of 
the new work was a quality hitherto un- 
known to Seville, although we may wonder 
why some of the Spaniards from other 
cities, who may have been warm colourists, 
had not been attracted to sun-loving Seville, 
where they could have created an imme- 
diate market for work that responded to the 
unvarying humour of the people. 



PLATE V.— THE BEGGAR BOY 
(From the Dulwich Gallery) 

The little gallery near Dulwich College, some five miles away from 
the boundaries of the City of London, is rich in works by Murillo. 
This study of a beggar boy possesses more than the interest created 
by the artist's clever treatment of shadow and light, the happiness of 
the posing and the skilled brushwork. It reveals the truth that 
between the beggar of nigh three hundred years ago and to-day there 
is little or no difference in Spain. You may meet this child to-day in 
and round the Andalusian country the painter knew so well. 



MURILLO 41 

The painter's studio was now thronged 
with the elite of Seville, by the crowds that 
muster when genius has been acclaimed 
by responsible parties and they need have 
no fear of their own taste. The man who 
had painted pinturas de la feria only 
three years ago could now choose his own 
commissions. He made the best use of 
his opportunities, and, a couple of years after 
his work for the Franciscans had given him 
a start in life, he married Dona Beatrice 
de Cabrera y Sotomayor. A portrait by 
Murillo said to be of the lady, is in the 
collection of Sir J. Stirling- Maxwell, but, 
seen through the medium of a photograph, 
it does nothing to explain why the painter 
married her. Perhaps the facts that she 
was of noble family, and had wealth, may 
be trusted to provide the key. Her flatterers 
could hardly have said that she was at- 



42 MURILLO 

tractive. In the picture she wears a man- 
tilla, and a flower in her hair after the 
fashion of the Sevillana, and looks as though 
she seldom suffered from good temper, but 
if the portrait does stand for the painter's 
wife, it is only fair to add that we have 
no record to suggest that she was as diffi- 
cult as she appears here. The suggestion 
that one of his later portraits of a really 
attractive woman represents his mistress 
is not supported sufficiently to convince us. 
Down to the year of his return to Seville 
the painter's work is of small importance, 
and in all probability the most of it has 
been lost. In a country where the wealthy 
were better prepared to buy pictures than to 
attach any importance to those who painted 
them, it is hardly likely that the rough im- 
mature efforts of the painter who sought his 
patrons at the weekly Fair would command 



MURILLO 43 

attention. Critics of Murillo divide his 
works into three periods, the first dating 
from 1646 to 1652, when his outlines were 
hard and the background lacked depth, and 
the colouring was more or less metallic. 
Following this came a short period of 
transition lasting till 1656, when more of 
the individuality behind the brush becomes 
expressed on the canvas, and one does not 
see the joints in the composition, or the 
definite effects by which the colour scheme 
has been secured. From 1656 Murillo may 
be said to have entered into his kingdom, 
to have expressed his conception of Holy 
Family and saints as they occurred to his 
mind, to stand outside the conventions that 
had fettered him hitherto. Some hold that 
these changes were merely the result of 
constant study, but the writer inclines to 
a strong belief that they were more than 



44 MURILLO j 

the fruit of mere technical efficiency. The 
painter was turning more and more from 
things of earth, to what he held to be 
things of Heaven, his emotional nature was 
responsive to the ceremonial of the Church, 
and to the lives of its worthiest repre- 
sentatives. Nearly all his work was done, 
whether directly or indirectly, in the service 
of the Faith, and he learned devoutly to 
believe in the miracles he was asked to 
express on canvas. Then it was that he 
sought to represent female forms of simple 
but enduring beauty, making luminous the 
surrounding air, angels hovering over saints, 
little cherubs, whose feet had never touched 
our own hard earth, smiling from folds of 
the Madonna's robes. 

Unconsciously, perhaps, he was doing as 
the Florentine and Venetian painters of the 
Renaissance had done before him ; he was 



MURILLO 45 

studying the motherhood and childhood in 
the streets around him, and transferring it 
with sure touch and reverent hand to his 
canvas. Small wonder then that his work 
in the latter days went home more directly 
than ever to the people among whom he 
lived, and that they looked upon Murillo 
as they looked upon the Cathedral, or the 
Giralda Tower, as a monument to their city 
and an instruction to strangers. To this 
day in the ancient city if you would praise 
a work of art of any description, you say it 
is a Murillo, i.e. a masterpiece. Perhaps 
the source of the painter's struggle gives 
us also the key-note to his weakness. The 
Church gave him faith and commissions, 
but it also imposed upon him a certain 
stilted handling of his subjects. His angels 
and cherubs came from the streets around 
his home, and sometimes one feels that 



46 MURILLO 

they are a little tired, a little intolerant of 
the pose he has inflicted upon them, and 
are anxious to return to less unnatural 
surroundings. For all his facility he had 
no daring; he felt and uttered the restric- 
tions that the Church imposed. Do not 
let us blame him for this, we should rather 
remember his achievement in humanising 
the heavenly host than his failure to make 
it human without self-consciousness. Only 
a wider training and a deeper knowledge 
in many directions could have freed his. 
brush, but had it been too free, he would 
have found his occupation gone. There 
must have been zealous churchmen who 
looked askance at many of his pictures, for 
the bulk of these clerics could hardly have 
looked at art save through the narrowing 
glasses of theology. To estimate the debt 
that Spanish art owes to Murillo, let us 



MURILLO 47 

look at the representation of the subjects 
he made his own by any of the men who 
preceded him. 

Although Murillo was so largely con- 
cerned with sacred art and religious feeling 
that his pictures for religious houses are 
largely in excess of all others, he took an 
intelligent interest in the social and artistic 
life around him. His home became one of 
the centres of intellectual communion in a 
city that has never devoted itself altogether 
to affairs of the mind, and he associated 
with the heads of Sevillian society in and 
out of the Church. The old lean years 
were far behind him, his pictures com- 
manded the highest prices in the city, and 
were in demand beyond its boundaries, 
though it is extremely unlikely that he left 
Seville for long at any time. He may have 
gone as far as Cadiz, before he went to his 



48 MURILLO 

death there, but that would have been the 
extreme limit of his excursions. Now and 
again by way of relaxation he painted a 
landscape — there are one or two in Madrid 
which have not yet been explained away 
by critics — and he painted portraits from 
time to time, though he preferred to give to 
some saint the features he was asked to 
record. Doubtless he felt that the Church 
had the first and final claims upon his 
services, and that he had no right to devote 
his time to secular subjects. 

As his social influence and his oppor- 
tunity for intercourse with leading contem- 
poraries increased, he entertained the idea 
of establishing in Seville a Public Academy 
of Art. In pursuit of this idea he would 
have received the hearty encouragement of 
the ecclesiasts who looked upon art as a 
sure aid to devotion, and it may be that 



PLATE VI.— A BOY DRINKING 
(From National Gallery, London) 

When Murillo was not concerned with Virgin, Saints or Martyrs, 
he loved to turn to the picturesque types of childhood that he found 
in the streets around him. He has undoubtedly brought more 
character, more humanity, and above all more movement into his 
child-life studies than into his sacred pictures. The National Gallery 
is the fortunate possessor of one of the painter's most successful 
studies of children, reproduced here. 



D 



MURILLO 51 

their assistance contributed largely to the 
success of the inaugural meeting held in 
Seville in the beginning of the year 1660, 
when a score or more of the leading 
painters of Andalusia drew up the constitu- 
tion of the new body, and elected Murillo 
and the younger Herrera as joint Pre- 
sidents. Students were to be admitted on 
payment of what they could afford, and 
the suggestion that the Church was sup- 
porting the new venture is justified by the 
fact that every student was required to 
abjure profanity and profess his orthodoxy 
by reciting an established formula. The 
Presidents devoted a week in turn to the 
Academy, teaching, criticising, and advis- 
ing, and the struggling young artists of the 
city and its environs made haste to avail 
themselves of the chance of securing 
tuition and assistance. Herrera did not 



52 MURILLO 

remain constant to his self-imposed task, 
and doubtless Murillo found it irksome, but 
the Academy was to no small extent the 
creation of his own brain, and he did his 
best for it, taking up the burden that his 
fellow president had laid aside. It is clear 
that he must have possessed some talent 
for organisation and administration ; the 
Academy seems to have thrived as long as 
he was able to direct its affairs, but shortly 
after his death its doors were closed. 
Some of the Spanish writers who have 
had access to old papers and correspond- 
ence declare that Murillo's position was 
one of great difficulty from the first, that 
the jealousy of men who were older and 
less successful than he hampered him very 
considerably, and that many of his best 
intentioned efforts were thwarted. It is 
not difficult to understand that the painter's 



MURILLO 53 

extraordinary career had provided him 
with plenty of detractors, and that his posi- 
tion at the head of the Academy would be 
resented by the elderly unsuccessful gentle- 
men who knew that the experiment was 
being watched from the highest quarters 
in Madrid. 

It is not possible in this place to refer 
at any length to the important work exe- 
cuted by Murillo in the first fifteen years 
of his latest manner. To attempt such a 
task would be to compile a catalogue that 
could hardly be of interest, save to the few 
English lovers of Murillo, who know his 
work in National Gallery, Louvre, Prado, 
Hermitage, and the public and private col- 
lections in Seville. Let it suffice for the 
moment to point out that he had been 
honoured with commissions to paint pictures 
for the Cathedral of Seville, once a Temple 



54 MURILLO 

to Venus, and possessing to this day, if the 
writer has been truly informed, dungeons 
wherein the officers of Holy Inquisition 
wrought their will upon the corpus vile of 
the heretic. He decorated the Chapel Royal 
in honour of the canonisation of St. Ferdi- 
nand. In the Chapter Room of the Cathe- 
dral are eight portraits painted in oval for 
the dome. All are saints, six men and two 
women, the latter being St. Justa and St. 
Rufina, the patron saints of the city. In 
years to come Goya was asked to paint 
St. Justa and St. Rufina, and showed his 
respect for their sanctity by employing 
two courtesans to sit for the portraits ; but 
this is another story, and belongs to the 
time of the French war and Ferdinand 
the Desired. There are countless studies 
of Christ in the Cathedral, one as a lad, 
another at the Baptism by St. John, a 



MURILLO 55 

third in which the child Christ appears 
to St Anthony of Padua, another after 
the scourging. The picture of Christ and 
St. Anthony was probably one of the finest 
of the master's works, but it has been 
vilely restored. As a rule, the gentlemen 
employed in Spain to restore masterpieces 
seem to have as much knowledge of art 
as the African witch doctor has of the 
healing art that is practised by a London 
Doctor of Medicine. It is only now and 
again, when one finds Murillo at his best 
in a picture that has defied the assaults 
of time, that one can realise what the cruel 
mercies of the restorer have done to ob- 
scure the painter's work. They have accen- 
tuated the obvious, turned sentiment into 
sentimentality, and made colour schemes 
lose their refinement. If Shakespeare's son- 
nets had been found mutilated, and had 



56 MURILLO 

been restored by that "philosopher true," 
the late Martin Tupper, we should have 
had in literature a counterpart of the 
result we have here in art. 

Beyond Murillo's highly important work 
in Seville Cathedral, attention must be called 
to the pictures he painted for the Church 
of Santa Maria la Blanca, the Convent of 
the Capuchins, and the Caridad. Only one 
of them, a "Last Supper," not in the 
painter's best manner, remains there to-day ; 
but the splendid semicircular picture of 
the Conception, now in the Louvre, was 
painted for Santa Maria la Blanca, and 
hung there until Marshal Soult cast his 
rapacious, but well cultivated, regard upon 
it; and in the Academy of San Fernando 
in Madrid, where so many of the fine 
Goyas are preserved, we can see two 
others, "The Dream" and "The Senator 



MURILLO 57 

and his Wife before the Pope." The story 
set out is founded upon the legend of a 
Roman Senator and his wife, who being 
childless vowed to leave their wealth to 
the Virgin. She appeared to them in a 
dream, the infant Christ in her arms, and 
bade them erect to her a church on the 
Esquiline, at a spot she indicated. To 
this dream the Church of Santa Maria 
Maggiore in Rome is said to owe its 
foundation. The two canvases stolen or 
annexed by Soult were returned to Spain 
after his death. 

The Caridad, a well-managed hospital, 
scrupulously clean, light and airy, thrives 
to-day on the banks of the Guadalquivir, 
close to the Tower of the Gold, and doubt- 
less the writer is but one of many who have 
spent long hours there, content to endure 
the sights and sounds of suffering for the 



58 MURILLO 

sake of the remnant of work that still 
graces the wall of church and hospital. 
There would be much more than can be 
seen to-day but for the visits of the indefatig- 
able Marshal Soult, who had such a pen- 
chant for the master's work that neither 
Cathedral nor hospital could guard it from 
his eyes and hands. It is easy enough to 
study Murillo in the public galleries, but it 
seems more satisfactory to see his canvases 
in the places for which they were painted, 
and a special interest attaches to the hospital 
of the Caridad, because it was founded by 
one of the men whom an age of devout 
belief is apt to produce from time to time 
— a desperate sinner turned saint. Don 
Miguel Manara of Calatrava, born a few 
years after Murillo, was a man of pleasure 
who wasted his substance in riotous living. 
One night as he was reeling home from a 



PLATE VII.— THE NATIVITY 
(From the Louvre, Paris) 

On several occasions Murillo chose the Nativity for the subject 
of his great canvases. He was always safe to attract the admiration 
of his clients by his reverent treatment of a scene that left so much 
to the imagination of the artist. His pictures were very greatly 
admired by the French invaders of Spain, and it was to Marshal Soult 
that many Frenchmen owed their first introduction to Murillo. 



MURILLO 61 

debauch he saw a funeral procession 
approaching him, the open bier surrounded 
by torch-bearing priests. "Whom do you 
carry to the grave?" he cried, and one of 
the priests replied, "Don Miguel Manara." 
Greatly terrified, the profligate looked at 
the corpse and recognised the features as 
his own. Then he knew no more until 
morning broke and he found himself in a 
church. Had he lived in this prosaic age 
his friends would have taken him to a 
nursing home to enjoy the benefits of 
bromide and a rest cure, but two hundred 
and fifty years ago a man had to work out 
his own salvation. He did so very thoroughly, 
turned from a profligate to a devotee and, 
after infinite labour, founded the hospital 
and church of the Caridad on the ruins of 
an early building of the same character. 
It is a splendid institution, and preserves 



62 MURILLO 

to this day the character proposed by its 
founder, whose anxious careworn face looks 
at us from the canvas painted by Juan de 
Valdes in the Cabilda. Murillo painted ten 
or eleven pictures for the Church of San 
Jorge attached to the hospital; three re- 
main : one is in Madrid, and two are in 
the town house of the Duke of Sutherland. 
Perhaps the " Moses " is the best of those 
that remain, but the Saint Elizabeth of Hun- 
gary, now in Madrid, is a master work. 

Gratitude for such favours as he had re- 
ceived would appear to have been one of 
the painter's characteristics, and may be 
held accountable for the splendid effort on 
behalf of the Franciscans, who in early 
days had given the commission that made 
him famous. When the brethren appealed 
to him in 1673 he was a rich man, and 
able to work as cheaply as in the days 



MURILLO 63 

when every real was worth saving. The 
Convent, then on the outskirts of the city, 
had taken forty years or more in the build- 
ing. Now it needed decoration, and the 
brethren did not appeal in vain to the 
greatest ecclesiastical painter of the day. 
We do not know his fee, but we do know 
that he devoted six years to his task. 
Upwards of a score of pictures testified at 
once to his devotion and to his skill, for 
they are among the best he has painted, 
and happily the most of them are to be 
seen in the Murillo Salon of the Seville 
Museum. The brethren of St. Francis, 
though they made one or two exchanges 
of the kind that Glaucus made with Dio- 
medes, had the sense to put the canvases 
they elected to preserve beyond the reach 
of Marshal Soult, and the Salon of Trabella 
holds inter alia the " St. Francis at the foot 



64 MURILLO 

of the Cross," "Justa and Rufina," "St. 
Thomas of Villanueva," and two Concep- 
tions. It will be remembered that the 
Papal Edict declaring* the Immaculacy of 
the Mother of God was issued in the year 
of Murillo's birth, and doubtless many a 
devout Catholic believed that the painter 
was given to Spain as a reward to Philip 
IV. by whose strenuous endeavour Pope 
Paul V. had issued his momentous decree. 
The pictures painted for the Franciscans 
were held by Murillo's contemporaries to 
place a crown upon his achievements. 
Brilliant as his work had been for the 
Cathedral and the Caridad, for the hospital 
known as Los Venerables, and for the 
Church of the Augustines, the Franciscans 
were held to have been the most fortunate 
of all the painter's patrons, and his pictures 
gave an immense stimulus to the labours 



MURILLO 65 

of the Church. The Capuchins of Cadiz 
besought him to journey to their city and 
to paint some pictures for their house. He 
had already reached a great age and an 
assured position, and no pecuniary recom- 
pense that the Capuchin Friars had to 
offer could have drawn him from his be- 
loved native city; but the temptation to 
work for the greater glory of God was irre- 
sistible, and he set out. It was an unfortu- 
nate journey. While engaged on a picture 
of the marriage of Santa Catherine, he 
stumbled in mounting the scaffolding, and 
ruptured himself badly. Suffering great 
pain, and unable or unwilling to describe 
his condition precisely, he was brought 
back to Seville, and we may feel assured 
that the journey must have aggravated his 
symptoms. His children and friends did 
all they could to alleviate his sufferings, 

E 



66 MURILLO 

but in those days of elemental knowledge 
rupture was not readily diagnosed, nor was 
there any effective treatment. We are told 
that the dying man was taken every day 
to the Church of the Holy Cross, where he 
prayed beneath the shadow of Campana's 
"Descent." Feeling that his end was upon 
him he sent for all his family and friends, 
and with the evening of April 3, 1682, 
the end came. He was buried under 
Campana's " Descent from the Cross," and 
his funeral afforded an occasion for all 
classes of Seville to show how greatly they 
respected the distinguished dead. He left 
but little money, though he had some real 
estate and a valuable collection of plate 
and pictures. By his will he left instruc- 
tions that four hundred masses were to be 
said for the repose of his soul— a generous 
allowance surely for one whose life was 



MURILLO 67 

singularly free from blame. His wife had 
predeceased him, but his sister, for whom 
he had laboured in the far-off early days, sur- 
vived; she had married a distinguished 
man of noble birth. His children were two 
sons and a daughter; the elder son was in 
the West Indies : the second, who took to 
art, died before middle age. 

You may find his work in all the great 
galleries to-day, but to know Murillo inti- 
mately one must go to Spain — to Seville 
and Madrid for choice. France boasts a 
fine collection, and many of those that 
adorn our National Gallery, Dulwich and 
Wallace Collections, are worthy of the 
painter. In Rome, Florence, Dresden, 
Munich, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg 
he is represented by work that demands 
attention. Doubtless much of his output 



68 MURILLO 

has been lost, much has been restored to 
death, some pictures remain to be dis- 
covered, but it should not be difficult to 
compile a list of 500 pictures painted by 
Murillo, the greater part in the third or 
"vaporoso" manner, and painted in the 
last twenty-five years of his life. Had he 
not received the commission from Cadiz, or 
had he refused to accept it, we may sup- 
pose that his output would have been con- 
siderably greater than it was, for he was 
in excellent health, was a conscientious 
worker, and was painting his finest pictures. 
He has enabled us to know what manner 
of man he was by the records of his life, 
by his work, and by several portraits of 
himself that he painted. Two are in Eng- 
land. One of the painter in his youth was 
bought by Sir Francis Cook at the Louis 
Philippe sale in 1853, and is now at 



PLATE VIII.— THE MARRIAGE OF THE VIRGIN 
(From the Wallace Collection) 

This is a panel-picture of considerable merit, full of charm and 
very sincerely felt. As is customary with Murillo, the grouping is 
better than the colouring, which has a certain tendency to crudity, 
not altogether restrained by the limits of the canvas. 



MURILLO 71 

Doughty House; another painted in later 
years is in Lord Spencer's famous collec- 
tion at Althorp. There are said to be others 
on the Continent ; one, said by those who 
have seen it to be the best of all, was 
formerly in the Louvre, but its present 
resting-place is not known to the writer. 
The artist suffers to-day from the fact 
that Velazquez was his contemporary, and 
from the indiscriminate praise of those who 
became acquainted with him for the first 
time when Soult came back from the wars. 
His panegyrists ignored or never saw his 
weakness, the theatrical posing of his 
figures, the ever-recurring sacrifice of 
reason to sentiment, of strength to pretti- 
ness. His detractors, on the other hand, 
have blinded themselves to the beauty of 
his conceptions, the skill of his composi- 
tions, the exquisite quality of his colouring, 



72 MURILLO 

and the spirit of genuine belief that kept a 
subject from becoming hackneyed, even 
when he had painted it a score of times. 
He did repeat himself; if we are not mis- 
taken he has more than a score of can- 
vases known to-day, setting out the story 
of the Immaculate Conception. The writer 
has seen some ten or twelve in Spain and 
France, and though the treatment is fairly 
uniform, each has been the object of the 
artist's most meticulous handling ; indeed, it 
is on this account that the central figure 
lacks the charm that comes to the little 
angels clinging round her. 

Murillo must have loved little children; 
he is never so happy and free from his be- 
setting sin of posing figures stiffly as when 
he turns for inspiration to the little ones. 
We have several examples of this branch 
of his art in and round London* The 



MURILLO 73 

National Gallery holds the " Drinking Boy," 
while Dulwich has several groups of beggar 
children and the delightful "Flower Girl." 
One may remark in passing that it is a 
thousand pities that the beauties of the 
Dulwich Collection are so little known to 
the general body of picture lovers. It can 
be reached on foot in two hours from the 
Bank of England, and is served by bus and 
train. Nearly all the Murillos are early 
ones, and the Velazquez (Philip IV.) is not 
altogether above suspicion, but the collection 
is a remarkable one, and sadly neglected by 
the public. It has often been urged against 
the Murillo children at Dulwich that they 
exhibit the painter's sin of theatrical posing 
in a \ery glaring light, but surely those 
who make this charge have overlooked 
the extraordinary self-consciousness of the 
Spanish beggar be he old or young. For 



74 MURILLO 

once Murillo is justified. Among the beggars 
of Spain, rags that only hold together by 
grace of Providence are worn as though 
they were purple and fine linen ; and the 
writer has seen the outcast, whose only 
possession beyond his rags was the cigar- 
ette that had just been given him, swagger 
along a dusty country high-road as though 
he were a grandee in electric motor passing 
through the ranks of his friends in the Park 
by the Prado when Madrid is in full season. 
There is much justification for the pose of 
the beggar children, the serious blame that 
attaches to the painter is for treatirg his 
divinities and saints as though they were 
no whit better than the exquisites of Sierpes 
or the beggars of the Macarena. Even his 
lambs are profoundly conscious that they 
are sitting for their portrait, and have made 
up their mind that if they are spared to 



MURILLO 75 

grow up and become sheep they will be 
worthy of their pastures. The painter was 
not justified in this, although we must never 
forget, if we would do him justice, that the 
Church kept a watchful eye on everything 
he did, and spoke to him with an authority 
he would have been the last to disregard. 
The Catholic Church is essentially spec- 
tacular in its worship, and surely the high 
dignitaries of the seventeenth-century Church 
would never have suffered Murillo to go 
unrebuked had he presented his figures in 
simpler pose and without any ostentation 
in their attitude. As things were he had 
brought the Godhead dangerously close to 
earth. 

Our entire conception of the province of 
art has altered beyond recognition since 
Murillo lived and died. The modern artist, 
whether he work with paint or words, 



76 MURILLO 

keeps his morality and his art distinct from 
one another. Art, he says, is not concerned 
with a rule of life, it is essentially non- 
moral. Murillo, on the other hand, accepted 
the theory that art is the handmaiden of 
the Church, that only the handling of the 
chosen picture is the affair of the painter. 
Where faith was concerned he was not far 
removed from Beato Angelico, and those 
who like to compare the products of an 
age in different countries, may remember 
that Carlo Dolci, the Florentine painter of 
cardinal virtues, was born about the same 
time as Murillo. The Church did for him 
in Italy what it did for Murillo in Spain, 
but the latter artist was made of sterner 
stuff, and had infinitely more brains and 
talent than his Florentine contemporary. 
But between Carlo Dolci's best work and 
Murillo's worst, there is a measure of 



MURILLO 77 

resemblance that justifies one in remember- 
ing that they were born within a year of 
each other, and that both passed in the 
penultimate decade of the seventeenth 
century. 

In conclusion it may be said for Murillo 
that, quite apart from his merits as a man, 
he may claim the admiration of the un- 
biassed critic of all time for some of his 
finest pictures. There were occasions when 
he painted figures that neither Velazquez 
nor Titian would have felt ashamed to 
own, there were times when his saints and 
Redeemer were expressed with exquisite 
dignity and restraint. Judged by the light 
of modern criticism, he was uneven in his 
work, but that criticism has no reason to 
believe that its arguments would have con- 
veyed anything to Murillo himself. His 
entire output suggests that he knew what 



78 MURILLO 

his message was to be, and delivered it as 
he received it. We can find pictures in 
which the proportions of the figures are 
bad, and the outlines are hard and un- 
pleasing, there are a few in which the 
colour scheme is poor and ineffective. But 
if against his worst moments we are con- 
tent to put his best, the artist has not 
much to fear. Apart from the value of his 
labours on purely artistic grounds, let us 
remember that he brought the Madonna 
and Infant Christ from the Heaven in which 
they had been inaccessible to the rank 
and file of Spain, to the earth where they 
might be seen and known, by those who 
walk in darkness. 



The plates are printed by Bemrose <fr" Sons, Ltd., Derby and London 
The text at the Bali.antynk Press, Edinburgh 



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