MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban
(b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)

The Holy Family with a Bird

Oil on canvas, 144 x 188 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This is a little-known genre scene: intimate, lyrical and very different from Murillo's customary representations of floating putti and healthy street Arabs. Here the Holy Family is portrayed as a simple human family: the artist shows a carpenter and his wife as he might have seen them at home in seventeenth-century Spain, dressed in the costume of the day. There are no haloes in this picture, nor is there any hint of the schematic arrangement seen in Baroque religious pictures. There is an element of sentimentality in the scene: the parents watch fondly as the Child plays with the dog and the bird. There could hardly be a more unambiguous example of the infusion of naturalism into a religious theme which is so characteristic of Spanish art; there is also in this picture something reminiscent of the homely atmosphere found in Netherlandish painting.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Clément Jannequin: The Birds (Le chant des oiseaux)