MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban
(b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)
Oil on canvas, 180 x 450 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
In his early pictures Murillo seems to have drawn the figures one by one, without attempting to unify the composition. But in the famous painting known as the Angels' Kitchen there is a greater narrative cohesion. Although the name of the protagonist is still somewhat uncertain, he may be the lay brother Francisco Pérez from the nearby town Alcalá de Guadaira, who spent thirty years as an assistant in the kitchen of the monastery San Francisco el Grande. According to the story he was much given to fervent prayer and one day became so lost in his devotions that he neglected his duties. Upon returning to consciousness, he was surprised to see that his chores had been miraculously accomplished.
Murillo has embellished the legend with irresistibly charming details. Fray Francisco, who is bathed in an aura of golden light, floats above the ground in a mystical rapture. Next to him stand exquisitely painted angels, with richly coloured wings, while at the right putti and angels tackle the work of preparing the meal, grinding spices, stirring the hotpot, and setting the table in the midst of a delicious still-life of vegetables and cookware. Painted when the artist was approaching thirty years of age, this painting announces the arrival of a new talent and temper in Sevillian painting.