Miguel Rosillo y Ortiz de Cañavete (1878–1950), Conde de Rosillo, 1920;
By descent until recently.
Murillo’s early style differs markedly from that of his later years. In the loosest sense of the term some of his earlier works could be classed as Caravaggesque, often with an emphasis on pronounced modelling achieved through a single, strong source of light from the side, casting dark shadows that contrast sharply with those parts that catch the light. Here the white pages of the book are angled towards the light source above and to the right, as is St John’s face. Murillo however was experimental such that he by no means exclusively employed such dark settings; the protagonists of his three earliest altarpieces, for example, are in fact offset by bright backgrounds filled with flatly illuminated putti.1 They do however all have in common an earthiness of tone and execution that gradually transforms into a sweeter, brushier style as the years progress. The present work, more private in nature than the large public altarpieces of the 1640s, may be compared to other starkly lit works from the 1640s, such as the series of canvases in the Claustro de San Francisco el Chico,2 or the small canvases depicting St. Thomas Aquinas and San Buenaventura.3
1. See E. Valdivieso, Murillo. Catálogo Razonado de Pinturas, Madrid 2010, nos 2–4, reproduced p. 255–57.
2. Valdivieso 2010, nos 6–16, reproduced pp. 259–71.
3. Valdivieso 2010, nos 32 and 33, reproduced p. 284.
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