ROELAS, Juan de las
(b. ca. 1570, Flanders, d. 1625, Olivares)

Vision of St Bernard

Oil on canvas, 252 x 166 cm
Hospital de San Bernardo, Seville

The mature Roelas excelled at creating monumental altarpieces replete with figures and teeming with incident. However, he also brought new life to smaller, more intimate religious subjects, such as the Vision of St Bernard, executed for the hospital of San Bernard in 1611. Here the saint is represented in a study that is furnished with a shelf lined with parchment-bound books. In front of the bookcase is a realistic glass vase holding symbolic lilies. St Bernard is a portrait-like type with a narrow head, a sharp nose, and sunken eyes, and his face expresses silent rapture as the Virgin's milk bathes his forehead. Roelas was able to capture as no Sevillian artist before him the intense piety, earthy realism, and love of spectacle that characterized the devotional practices of Andalusia, and thus he made a profound impact on many younger painters, notably Francisco de Zurbarán.