Zurbarán, Francisco de (1598-1664) was a Spanish painter. He is known primarily for his religious paintings depicting monks, nuns, and martyrs, and for his still-lifes. Zurbarán gained the nickname Spanish Caravaggio, owing to the forceful, realistic use of chiaroscuro in which he excelled.

  Zurbarán was born in 1598 in Fuente de Cantos, Extremadura. His parents were Luis de Zurbarán, a haberdasher, and his wife, Isabel Márquez. In childhood he set about imitating objects with charcoal.


In 1614 his father sent him to Seville to apprentice for three years with Pedro Díaz de Villanueva, an artist of whom very little is known. It is unknown whether Zurbarán had the opportunity to copy the paintings of Caravaggio; at any rate, he adopted Caravaggio's realistic use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism. Polychrome sculpture, which by the time of Zurbarán's apprenticeship had reached a level of sophistication in Seville that surpassed that of the local painters, provided another important stylistic model for the young artist. While in Seville, Zurbarán married Leonor de Jordera, by whom he had several children.

Towards 1630 he was appointed painter to Philip IV; and there is a story that on one occasion the sovereign laid his hand on the artist's shoulder, saying "Painter to the king, king of painters."

His compositionally simple and emotionally direct altarpieces, combining austere naturalism with mystical intensity, made him an ideal Counter-Reformation painter. The most characteristic of his works are the single figures of monks and saints in meditation or prayer, most of which seem to have been executed in the 1630s. The figures are usually depicted against a plain background, standing out with massive physical presence. Many of these monumentally solemn figures are conceived in great series, such as "The Members of the Mercedarian Order" or "The Carthusian Saints". But there are single pictures of the same kind. He painted numerous pictures of St Francis, for example (two in the National Gallery, London), and a number of virgin saints.

After 1640 his austere, harsh, hard edged style was unfavorably compared to the sentimental religiosity of Murillo and Zurbarán's reputation declined. It was only in 1658, late in Zurbarán's life that he moved to Madrid in search of work and renewed his contact with Velázquez. Zurbarán died in poverty and obscurity.


"The Immaculate Conception" Oil on canvas, 139 x 104 cm - 54.7 x 40.9 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

"The Savior Blessing" (1638) Oil on canvas, 99 x 71 cm - 39 x 28 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

"Still Life with Pottery Jars" (1636) Oil on canvas, 46 x 84 cm - 18.1 x 33.1 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

"Saint Luke as a Painter before Christ on the Cross (detail); widely believed to be a self-portrait" (1635-40) Oil on canvas, 105 x 84 cm - 41.3 x 33.1 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

"St. Serapio" (1628) Oil on canvas, 120 x 103 cm - 47.2 x 40.6 in. Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

"The Lying-in-State of St. Bonaventura" (1629) Oil on canvas, 250 x 225 cm - 98.4 x 88.6 in. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

"Agnus Dei" (1635-40) Oil on canvas, 38 x 62 cm - 15 x 24.4 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

"Still-life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose" (1633) Oil on canvas, 60 x 107 cm - 23.6 x 42.1 in. Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California, USA...

"Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate" (circa 1630) Oil on canvas, 21.2 x 30.1 cm - 8.3 x 11.9 in. National Gallery, London, UK.

"The Sudarium of St. Veronica" (1658-61) Oil on canvas, 104 x 84 cm - 40.9 x 33.1 in. Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, Spain.

Text source: 'Wikipedia' ( & 'Webmuseum' (

Related Artists:

Related Terms: Baroque, Chiaroscuro, Still-life.


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