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Bartolome Esteban Murillo was a Spanish painter from the Baroque period who became one of the leading Spanish painters at the time. He is best known for his religious artworks. However, Murillo also produced several paintings depicting contemporary Sevillan scenes, creating an extensively registering the day-to-day life of the period.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was born in December 1617. He was the youngest in a family of 14, born in the city of Seville, both in the Spanish region of Andalusia. His parents died when he was about ten years old; upon their death, he came under the protection of his sister’s husband. Bartolomé rarely used his father’s surname. Instead, he would use the surname of his maternal grandmother, Elvira Murillo.
Murillo’s earliest art education was under the painter Juan del Castillo, who was also a relative of his mother. His earliest production was heavily inspired by artists such as Jusepe de Ribera, Alonzo Cano, and Francisco de Zurbarán.
Since Seville was a thriving commercial city at the time, it was possible to Murillo to experience artistic influences from many other regions. Hence he became in contact with Flemish painting, especially Molanus and his Treatise on Sacred Images.
At the age of 26, Murillo moved to Madrid, where he probably became familiar with Velazquez’s artwork and undoubtedly influenced by them. He would return to Seville and marry Beatriz Cabrera y Villalobos in 1645, and the couple eventually had eleven children. In the same years, Murillo produced eleven paintings for the convent of St. Francisco el Grande, in Seville. These canvases depicting the Franciscan saints’ miracles, carry a hint of Zurbarán’s Tenebrism but also shows a soft luminous work very typical of Murillo’s more mature work.
Even during the late phase of his career, the artist continued to innovate his style. He began to portray Christ, the Virgin, John the Baptist, and other saints as Sevillan adolescents and children, introducing a sense of sweetness into religious subjects.
During the the the late 1660s and 70s, Murillo executed several significant commissions for prestigious religious institutions, such as the Convento de Los Padres Capuchinos, illustration the allegory of the Prodigal Son; several artworks for the church of San Agustin dedicated to Saint Thomas de Villanueva. Also, by 1667, Murillo began an important series for the Hospital de Caridad that was comprised of two paintings of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Saint John of God and six of the seven acts of mercy.
By 1862, Murillo began his last commission, a group of paintings for the main altar of the Capuchins church in Cadiz. The artwork was to be executed directly on-site using a scaffolding. When painting the central canvas, the artist fell from at least twenty feet onto the marble floors, rupturing his abdominal wall. Although the artist was able to return to Seville, he would soon perish due to hernia and other associated complications. The altar was finished by one of his pupils, Francisco Meneses Osorio.
Bartolome Esteban Murillo died on April 3, 1862.