Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Bartolome Esteban Murillo (Spain, 1618-82)

Figure 1.--Murillos best remembered paintings today are his images of Seville stree children. This is "Young beggers playing dice". Perhaps slightly idealized, the children are done very realistically and with a charm that displays the artists love of children.

Among the great Spanish painters, Bartolome Esteban Murillo has to be listed. Murillo centered his career on his native Seville. Today his contemprary Velasquez is perhaps most admired, but Murillo in their time was the first Spanish painter to achieve widepread renown throughout Europe, in addition to the enormous popularity of his works in his native Seville. Murillo like Velazquez began his caeeer by painting street scenes. Unlike Velaquez hw never suceeded in making grand court connections. Murillowas especially noted for his paintings of street urchins ("Boys eating melons and grapes"; "Boys playing with marbles"). He also did some important religious works as well, like "St. John as a boy with a lamb". He was born and died in Seville. In truth Murillo loved children and this attachment can be seen in his portraits of them. They are very realistic portraits, Some are slightly idealized, but still very early. Murillo had 11 children. Sadly many died in childhood. At the end he was left nearly alone.


Murillo's parents died when he was still a child.


Murillo was born in Seville (1617). His career was throughout his life centered primarily on Seville. After the death of his parents he lived with a Seville artist, Juan del Castillo.


Murillo developed his skill under the tutalage of Castillo who took him in when his parents died. Many of Murillo's early works show the influence of his master. Castillo specialized in churning out low-cost religious pictures for small churches, poorly endowed churches in Spain and in Spain's American colonies.


Murillo had 11 children. Here there was great tragedy. Two fied at birt and give in childhood. When his wife died she was soon followed by their eldest son. Another son emigrated to America and jis only surviving daughter joined a convent. At the end he was left nearly alone.


Murillo's early life is not well documented. His paintings undergo a change about 1650. It is hard to nbe precise because his paintings are not dated, although some of his religious works can be dated because details of the commissions are known. For the most part art historians have had to try to date his works based on his developing style. It is believe that toa large degree this change in his workmstemmed from the opportunity to come to Madrid and view some of the master works there. He seems to have been especially impressed with Diego Velasquez who by this time had become the courtin his use of color and his depictions of peopkle become more natural. While in Madrid, Murillo would have also been exposed to the wotk of important Flemish and Venetian artists.


Today his contemprary Velasquez is perhaps most admired, but Murillo in their time was the first Spanish painter to achieve widepread renown throughout Europe. Murillo was especially admired in England and he is said to have influenced both Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Constable.

Body of Work

Murillo is primarily known gor two types of paintings. They are similar in that both emphasized joyous nature of life.


The paintings Murillo is best remembered for today are those of street children in his native Seville. He sketched children both in the streets and at home. He painted both the ragged boys and the flower girls of Seville. There are no grand images of proud aristocratic children in fine clothes. Murillo like Velazquez began his caeeer by painting realistic genre street scenes. Unlike Velaquez, Murillo never suceeded in making grand court connections. Murillo was especially noted for his paintings of street urchins ('Boys eating melons and grapes' and 'Boys playing with marbles'). The result are matchless realistic images of the everday lives of ordinary children in the Spain of the 17th century. These pictures were generally done when Murillo was young and before he could command substantiall fees. The image here is 'Young beggers playing dice' (figure 1). Another Murillo image archived on HBC is 'The Toilette' (1670-75). Images like this of ordinry children are a very valuable addition to the historical record.

Religious scenes

As his reputation grew, Murillo turned increasingly to relgious scenes. His religious paintings were an inovation in that they were not grand statements or focus on suffering and sacrifice. Rather they projected the peacefulif not mundane, joyous gift of spiritual life. Religious paintings were still important in Spanish. The Inquisition still operated in Spain in sharp contrast to Murillo's jouous view of religion. There are many important religious paintings. The best known are probably the three versions of the "Immaculate Conception". Murillo also like to paint "St. Anthony of Padua" Art experts also also admire a series done for the Charity Hospital in Seville. These include "Moses Striking the Rock", "St. Elizabeth of Hungary Tending the Sick", and "St. Peter Released from Prison". Murillo in his religious scenes like to employ an illuminated mist, in which angels and cherubs abound, to surround the central figures.


Murillo painted only a few portraits. They were done in a very lifelike style.

Seville Academy

Murillo as a leading Seville artist helped found a public academy of art in Seville (1660). He became its first president.


Murillo's last commission was the Espousal of St. Catherine for the Capuchin monastery in Cadiz. While working on the painting for a wall of the monestary, Murillo fell from the scaffold (1681). He died several months later from the injiries sustained (April 3, 1682). He was buried in the church of Santa Cruz in his native Seville.


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Created: March 31, 2004
Last updated: 1:43 AM 10/8/2015