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Francisco de Zurbarán

November 7, 1598 - August 27, 1664


Francisco de Zurbarán was born on November 7th, 1598 in the small Spanish town of Fuente de Cantos to the merchant Luis de Zurbarán and Isabel Márquez, and was the youngest of six children. While records say Zurbarán completed a three-year apprenticeship in Seville, his compositions remained simple and lacked linear perspective, leading some art historians to view Zurbarán to be largely self-taught. In Seville he formed a lifelong friendship with fellow student Diego Velázquez. Due to the high demands of religious orders in the workshops of Seville, he became an expert of religious works. He became known for the religious depictions of Saints and Apostles throughout his career; including Saint Serapion (1628). He poeticized the stern inclinations of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, portraying saints and monks in ecstatic prayer, as in Saint Francis of Assisi in his tomb. Zurbarán established his business as a painter in Llerena in 1617 and married María Páez Jiménez, who unfortunately passed away six years later, leaving three young children. Zurbarán’s mature style was honed by studying works of past masters, deeply affected by the stark contrasts of light and dark of Caravaggio. In the years following 1630, King Philip IV commissioned Zurbarán to decorate the Great Hall of the royal palace, painting mythological images analogous to the King’s glory. Five years after his second wife died in May of 1639, he entered his third and last marriage to Leonor de Tordera when he was 46. Zurbarán’s terrible personal loss grew when his son Juan died of the plague in Seville in 1649. Afterwards, Zurbarán relocated to Madrid in 1658 and received some royal commissions. In 1662, Francisco de Zurbarán’s declining health forced him to stop painting, and on August 27, 1664, he died in Madrid. His work was largely unrecognized until the beginning of the 19th century when scholars recognized him as a leader of seventeenth century Spanish Baroque art.

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