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Title: Murillo
Author: Bensusan, S. L. (Samuel Levy), 1872-1958
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Murillo" ***

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(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 imitations 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.







[Illustration: title page art]






    I. The Immaculate Conception . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece
           From the Louvre, Paris

   II. The Beggar Girl
           From the Dulwich Gallery

  III. The Holy Family
           From the Louvre, Paris

   IV. Madonna of the Rosary
           From the Dulwich Gallery

    V. The Beggar Boy
           From the Dulwich Gallery

   VI. A Boy Drinking
           From the National Gallery, London

  VII. The Nativity
           From the Louvre, Paris

 VIII. The Marriage of the Virgin
           From the Wallace Collection

[Illustration: Murillo]


There have been long years in which the name of Bartolomé Esteban,
known to the world as Murillo, was one to conjure with.  Velazquez, El
Greco, Ribera, Zurburan, Goya, were long uncertain in their appeal,
recognised only by the enlightened among their contemporaries and
ignored by the great majority of their fellow-countrymen.  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 remain 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 sheltering 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 a high one are forgotten.  This is not as it should be.
Bartolomé 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
enable 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 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 belief, 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.



(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

[Illustration: Plate II.--THE BEGGAR GIRL]


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 Caridad, 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 abstractions; 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 isolation were not

For twenty years, the most impressionable 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 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 technical difficulties and the beauties of colour the
qualities of imagination and inspiration that are associated with the
select few in 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 hesitation 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 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.



Murillo came into the world with the close of the year 1617, and was
baptized in a church destroyed during the French invasion 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 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.

In the studio of a moderately successful artist a pupil would be
required to do menial 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 youthful 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 his
services as soon as he had demonstrated 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 the
making just then, and the making was a slow and painful process.



(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 by
their absence.



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 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 photographer 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 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 became
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 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 renewed 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 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
Macarena 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 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
between 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 _bonâ fides_ of his visitor, he gave him a
home, examined his work, and pointed out its defects, procured his
admission to the royal galleries, and advised him to copy the work of
Ribera and Van Dyck.  These opportunities 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 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 necessary 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
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 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.



(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.



He was still poor, and his poverty induced 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 Spanish grandee on its way
to this country.  The French invaders of Spain were connoisseurs as
well as soldiers, and in consideration 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
discover 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 and a landscape or
two of minor importance.

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 Inquisition 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 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 pursuit of
righteousness.  It was a revelation to Andalusia this strange new view
of holiness, 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 unknown 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 immediate market for work
that responded to the unvarying humour of the people.



(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.

[Illustration: PLATE V.--THE BEGGAR BOY]


The painter's studio was now thronged with the _élite_ 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
attractive.  In the picture she wears a mantilla, 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 difficult 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 immature efforts of the painter who sought his
patrons at the weekly Fair would command 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 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 representatives.  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 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 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 restrictions
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 look at the
representation of the subjects he made his own by any of the men who
preceded him.

Although Murillo was so largely concerned 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 commanded 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 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.



(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.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.--A BOY DRINKING]


As his social influence and his opportunity for intercourse with
leading contemporaries 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 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 constitution of the
new body, and elected Murillo and the younger Herrera as joint
Presidents.  Students were to be admitted on payment of what they could
afford, and the suggestion that the Church was supporting 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 advising, 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 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 correspondence 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
extraordinary career had provided him with plenty of detractors, and
that his position at the head of the Academy would be resented by the
elderly unsuccessful gentlemen 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 executed 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 collections 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 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. Ferdinand.  In
the Chapter Room of the Cathedral 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 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 obscure the painter's work.  They have accentuated the obvious,
turned sentiment into sentimentality, and made colour schemes lose
their refinement.  If Shakespeare's sonnets had been found mutilated,
and had 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 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.



(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.



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 doubtless the writer is but one of many who have
spent long hours there, content to endure the sights and sounds of
suffering for the 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 indefatigable Marshal Soult, who had
such a penchant 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 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 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 remain: 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 Hungary, now in Madrid, is a master work.

Gratitude for such favours as he had received 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 when every real was worth saving.  The Convent, then on the
outskirts of the city, had taken forty years or more in the building.
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 Diomedes, 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 of
the Cross," "Justa and Rufina," "St. Thomas of Villanueva," and two
Conceptions.  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 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
recompense that the Capuchin Friars had to offer could have drawn him
from his beloved native city; but the temptation to work for the
greater glory of God was irresistible, and he set out.  It was an
unfortunate 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, 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 instructions that four hundred masses were to be said for
the repose of his soul--a generous allowance surely for one whose life
was singularly free from blame.  His wife had predeceased him, but his
sister, for whom he had laboured in the far-off early days, survived;
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 intimately 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 has been lost, much has been restored to
death, some pictures remain to be discovered, 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 suppose that his output
would have been considerably 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 England.  One of the painter in
his youth was bought by Sir Francis Cook at the Louis Philippe sale in
1853, and is now at Doughty House; another painted in later years is in
Lord Spencer's famous collection 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 prettiness.  His
detractors, on the other hand, have blinded themselves to the beauty of
his conceptions, the skill of his compositions, the exquisite quality
of his colouring, 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 mistaken he has more than a score
of canvases 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.



(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 must have loved little children; he is never so happy and free
from his besetting 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 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 very 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 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 cigarette 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 treating 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 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 spectacular 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, 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 resemblance that justifies one
in remembering 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 unbiassed 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 conveyed anything to
Murillo himself.  His entire output suggests that he knew what 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 unpleasing, there are a few in which the colour
scheme is poor and ineffective.  But if against his worst moments we
are content 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

The plates are printed by BEMROSE & SONS, LTD., Derby and London

The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh


  ARTIST.                  AUTHOR.

  VELAZQUEZ.               S. L. Bensusan.
  REYNOLDS.                S. L. Bensusan.
  TURNER.                  C. Lewis Hind.
  ROMNEY.                  C. Lewis Hind.
  GREUZE.                  Alys Eyre Macklin.
  BOTTICELLI.              Henry E. Binns.
  ROSSETTI.                Lucien Pissarro.
  BELLINI.                 George Hay.
  FRA ANGELICO.            James Mason.
  REMBRANDT.               Josef Israels.
  LEIGHTON.                A. Lys Baldry.
  RAPHAEL.                 Paul G. Konody.
  HOLMAN HUNT.             Mary E. Coleridge.
  TITIAN.                  S. L. Bensusan.
  MILLAIS.                 A. Lys Baldry.
  CARLO DOLCI.             George Hay.
  GAINSBOROUGH.            Max Rothschild.
  TINTORETTO.              S. L. Bensusan.
  LUINI.                   James Mason.
  FRANZ HALS.              Edgcumbe Staley.
  VAN DYCK.                Percy M. Turner.
  LEONARDO DA VINCI.       M. W. Brockwell.
  RUBENS.                  S. L. Bensusan.
  WHISTLER.                T. Martin Wood.
  HOLBEIN.                 S. L. Bensusan.
  BURNE-JONES.             A. Lys Baldry.
  VIGÉE LE BRUN.           C. Haldane Macfall.
  CHARDIN.                 Paul G. Konody.
  FRAGONARD.               C. Haldane Macfall.
  MEMLINC.                 W. H. J. & J. C. Weale.
  CONSTABLE.               C. Lewis Hind.
  RAEBURN.                 James L. Caw.
  JOHN S. SARGENT.         T. Martin Wood.
  LAWRENCE.                S. L. Bensusan.
  DÜRER.                   H. E. A. Furst.
  MILLET.                  Percy M. Turner.
  WATTEAU.                 C. Lewis Hind.
  HOGARTH.                 C. Lewis Hind.
  MURILLO.                 S. L. Bensusan.
  WATTS.                   W. Loftus Hare.
  INGRES.                  A. J. Finberg.

_Others in Preparation._

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