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Sevilla's Museum of Fine Spanish Painting

Sevilla, Spain

Sevilla’s Museo de Bellas Artes displays the work of its hometown artists: Zurburán, who portrayed religious scenes with a harsh realism, and Murillo, who specialized in soft-focus depictions of the Virgin Mary

Complete Video Script

Sevilla’s passion for religious art is preserved and displayed in its Museum of Fine Art — the Museo de Bellas Artes.

The top Spanish artists — Velázquez, Murillo, Zurburán — all called Sevilla home. Sevilla was Spain’s commercial and material capital — its New York City, while Madrid was a newly built center of government, like Washington, D.C. In the early 1800s, Spain’s liberal government disbanded many of the monasteries and convents and secular fanatics were looting the churches. Thankfully, the most important religious art was rescued and hung safely here in this convent-turned-museum.

Spain’s economic Golden Age — the 1500s — blossomed into the golden age of Spanish painting — the 1600s.

Artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán combined realism with mysticism. Under a protective Mary, he painted balding saints and monks with wrinkled faces and sunburnt hands. This inspirational style fit Spain’s spiritual climate during an age when the Catholic Church was waging its Counter-Reformation battle against the Protestant rebellion.

The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas is considered Zurburán’s most beautiful and important work. It was done at the height of his career, when stark realism was all the rage. Zurburán presents the miraculous in a believable, down-to-earth way.

Eventually, the soft and accessible style of Bartolomé Murillo became more popular than Zurbarán’s harsher realism. Murillo became the rage in Spain and through much of the Catholic world. This Madonna and Child shows how Murillo wraps everything in warm colors and soft light.

Murillo’s favorite subject is the Virgin Mary, shown young and pure. The painting is called The Immaculate Conception, one of dozens Murillo painted on this subject. Catholics believe that not only was Jesus born of a virgin, but that Mary herself was completely pure…conceived immaculately.