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

Vision of Brother Andrés Salmerón

Oil on canvas, 290 x 222 cm
Monastery, Guadalupe

After producing a trial piece for the Hieronymite monastery at Guadalupe in 1638, Zurbarán signed a contract on 2 March 1639, which obligated him to supply eight pictures for the sacristy, each portraying a noted brother of the order. These paintings remain in their original place and constitute the best surviving example of a series of monastic history painted in the seventeenth century.

The spiritual achievements of the Guadalupe Hieronomytes are exemplified in the Vision of Brother Andrés Salmerón, in which Zurbarán's art of immediacy attains a pinnacle of intensity and feeling. Set in an indeterminate space that is flooded with amber light, the scene is divided by swirling, cyclonic clouds which accompany the appearance of Christ. In the shallow foreground zone, a mystical encounter takes place between two towering figures. Christ, garbed in a bright pink robe, reaches out and gently touches the forehead of Brother Andrés, who is posed in strict profile, hands clasped in a reverential attitude. The absence of external expression seems to turn all emotion inward, making the experience truly ineffable.