Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
(Seville, Spain, 1617–1682, Seville, Spain)
Oil on canvas
87 3/4 x 142 in. (222.9 x 360.7 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H. Meadows Collection, MM.67.27
Listen to Meadows Museum docent Paula Grier discuss this work (2:27 minutes)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682)
Jacob Laying Peeled Rods before the Flocks of Laban, c. 1665
by Paula Grier, Meadows Museum docent
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was the last of the great masters of seventeenth century Golden Age of Spanish art. He is best known for his religious works and paintings of intimate scenes from daily life. Formed in late naturalism, he later evolved into Baroque-style formulas that favored looser brushstrokes and light, soft, often sentimental sweetness.
He lived and worked in the bustling port city of Seville, which had been granted exclusive privileges as the port of entry and exit for the great wealth generated by the Indies trade. The seventeenth century represented the most brilliant flowering of Seville’s culture. The city became an international hub and the third largest in Europe, after Paris and Naples. At the height of his career, Murillo enjoyed the most prestigious commissions that Seville had to offer, both from religious institutions and nobility.
Our painting is a balanced depiction of a beautiful, idealized rural landscape complete with rolling hills, trees, and pools of running water. Soft pastel colors including tonalities of greenish brown and grayish blue predominate and gold and silver tones are used to convey that the soft, billowy clouds are pierced by light. In the foreground, the steep rocky formation and the dramatic use of trees emphasize the biblical figure of Jacob making him the focal point. The painting is distinguished by a combination of the calm solemnity of Jacob paired with a pastoral scene that one could expect to see in the sixteen hundreds in rural Spain. It is executed with a gracefulness of expression and softness of brushstroke that are now the most recognizable hallmarks of Murillo’s artistic maturity.
By the time of his death in 1682, Murillo had produced more than 400 paintings and cemented a legacy that would endure some 200 years. The Meadows Museum is in possession of five of this master painter’s works; it has more paintings by Murillo than any other museum in the United States.