HERRERA, Francisco de, the Elder
(b. ca. 1590, Sevilla, d. 1656, Madrid)

St Bonaventure Enters the Franciscan Order

Oil on canvas, 231 x 215 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Francisco de Herrera the Elder was an important member of the school of Seville. His violent technique was more daring than anything achieved by his colleagues. He excelled in depicting character.

Herrera's most ambitious commission was the decoration of the church of the Franciscan Colegio de San Buenaventura. Herrera began working for the college in 1626, when he frescoed the nave and the dome of the small chapel with portraits of famous doctors of the order accompanied by painted emblems extolling the glories of their sacred learning. Upon completion of the frescoes in 1627, the patrons immediately commissioned the artist to paint six pictures of St Bonaventura's life to decorate the walls of the church. Herrera completed only four of the projected works (now owned by the Prado Museum and the Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina), one of which is the St Bonaventura Enters the Franciscan Order. In Herrera arranges a row of friars diagonally in front of and altar but makes little attempt to relate the figures to each other; instead each head is individualized as though the were determined to call attention to what is, after all, a powerfully unattractive group of people.