Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christ and the Virgin

Francisco de Zurbarán
Christ and the Virgin in the House of Nazareth
Oil on canvas
59 1/2 by 80 5/8 in; 151.2 by 204.8 cm.
Private collection

This is an unusual composition. It was Zurbarán’s own pictorial invention.

The Virgin is sitting on a low bench. She looks up from her sewing towards her now half-grown Son who is seated on a stool beside her.

The young Christ, apparently amusing himself with the odd pastime of weaving a wreath of brambles, has pricked his finger on one of the thorns.

The supernatural burst of light coming in from the top of the composition leaves no doubt as to the significance of the event

The Virgin raises her hand to her face to brush away tears.

Note the symbols: of the Eucharist (the cup); the Scriptures (books); Original Sin (the fruit); the Holy Ghost (the doves), the purity of the Virgin (the lilies); and the rosary (the roses).

There is an almost identical picture by Zurbarán in the Cleveland Museum of Art, acquired in 1960

The theme was used for an important series of paintings for the Jeronymites of the monastery of Guadalupe: eight for the sacristy and three for the chapel by the sacristy.

The Cleveland work is at: the Museum website

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