The Immaculate Conception of "Los Venerables"

Once again, we come to a painting commissioned by Justino de Neve, a Canon from Seville who was Murillo’s patron. This picture was painted for the hospital of Los Venerables in Seville, which cared for elderly priests. The painting is large, and the Virgin Mary appears to be floating upon clouds in mid-air, surrounded by little angels who are reminiscent of classical Cupids like those by Titian.

The artist’s inspiration came from the text in the Apocalypse that describes: “a woman clothed in the sun, and the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars”. Look carefully at the left-hand side of the picture to see more figures of angels, painted in all sorts of positions and with very loose brushstrokes. Many of them are unfinished, like a prelude to Impressionism. Murillo changed the usual colour of Mary’s tunic from red to white, the symbol of purity.

Napoleon’s Marshal Soult liked the painting so much that he took it away with him, along with other works stolen from Spain during the Peninsular War. It hung in the Louvre museum until 1940, when it was returned to Spain.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns