uvre invitée Guest WorkFrancisco de Zurbarán | The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian
Œuvre invitée - Guest Work is an initiative through which masterworks of important public and private collections get invited to the MNHA, promoting the dialogue with the museum's own permanent exhibition as well as filling gaps in its collection.
Francisco de Zurbarán was a 17th century Spanish Baroque painter renowned for his powerful and realistic interpretations of monastic life. Born in 1598, a year before Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), he started his apprenticeship in Seville in 1614. He became familiar with polychrome sculpture which affected his style as a painter. Zurbarán's oeuvre is a remarkable synthesis between the traditional and the innovative.
Earlier paintings demonstrate Caravaggesque realism, with an extensive use of chiaroscuro, but later pictures feature a more diffuse use of light. Already the works he creates in 1626 for the monastery of San Pablo el Real show early signs of his distinctive style: the force and massive effect of his figures, the heavy folds of the drapery, the pronounced oval shape of his faces and the attention given to accessories. In 1634 the artist leaves for Madrid in order to work for the court. The economic hardships of the years 1640-50 oblige Zurbarán to seek clientele in the Americas. He dies in poverty in 1664 in Madrid.
Dated c. 1650, The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian belongs to Zurbarán's late period. The modelling of his figures had started to become thinner and his palette somewhat brighter. It originally hung together with a Saint Augustine at the Monastery of San Augustin in Seville.
Since the Renaissance, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian was an excuse to glorify the beauty of the naked body. Nearly always standing and attached, the saint's attribute are the arrows he was tortured with.