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

The Holy Family

1659
Oil on canvas, 121,5 x 97 cm
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Whereas the names and works of Velázquez and Murillo were known and appreciated by European connoisseurs at a relatively early date, Zurbarán was scarcely known outside Spain, and even now there are not very many of his works to be found in European galleries. Born in Fuente de Cantos, a small village in Estremadura, he studied in Seville and most of his work, almost exclusively commissions for monastic orders and churches, was done there. These circumstances determined his themes and the way he treated them: he painted hardly anything but religious subjects, mostly scenes from the lives of the saintly or monastic visionaries. His pictures are generally characterized by a severe structure, vigorous forms, rustic models and a close and detailed observation of nature.

During the last years of his life Zurbarán worked in Madrid where, mainly under the influence of Murillo, his interpretation became softer, his way of expression more lyrical and his colours lighter. The Holy Family (The Rest on the Flight to Egypt), signed and dated 1659, is a remarkable example of this late period: a simple composition of half-length figures with an intimate charm and emotionalism strongly reminiscent of Murillo.