ZURBARÁN, Francisco de
(b. 1598, Fuente de Cantos, d. 1664, Madrid)

The Lying-in-State of St Bonaventura

Oil on canvas 250 x 225 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The church of the Franciscan college San Buenaventura in Seville was adorned by a narrative cycle on the life of St Bonaventura, the renovator of the Franciscan order. Between 1626 and 1628 Herrera painted the four scenes describing the saint's youth, placed on the left wall of the nave; Zurbarán was commissioned to complete the cycle, and executed four canvases illustrating the end of the saint's life.

Dressed in the brilliant white robes of a bishop, grasping the cross in his folded hands, the body of the saint lies in state on a bier draped in sumptuous brocade, with the red biretta of the cardinal at his feet. Pope Gregory X, who had appointed him cardinal bishop of Albano in 1273 stands, a white bearded man, beside the king, to whom he appears to be explaining the merits of the dead man. Most of the mourners, however, are simple Franciscan monks in their greyish brown habits, pensively praying or meditatively contemplating the dead man. He is indeed one of them, and the wan complexion of his tranquil face appears to mirror the dull hue of the habits. The great scholar and administrator of his order is here placed between the representatives of ecclesiastical and worldly power and the world of simple Franciscan brotherhood. He was accorded the title of "doctor seraphicus", meaning the "brilliant teacher full of love". This is what Zurbarán paints: the teacher bound to practical life, his face filled with mystical desire even in death.