Lot 9
  • 9

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bartolomé Estebán Murillo
  • Ecce Homo;Mater Dolorosa
  • a pair, both oil on canvas, in painted ovals


In the collection of the Dukes of Frías, Madrid;

By family descent until sold in 2000;

Acquired by the present owner in around 2003.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: These two paintings have had quite recent linings and stretchers. The surface is finely preserved with a faint texture from the minute old craquelure. The fairly recent restoration has left a veil of old varnish. Mater Dolorosa. Any retouching is mainly along the edges, particularly along and near the base edge, with some at the lower left edge near the corner. There are only a few small touches in the face and scattered minute touches in the veil, especially lower down. A cluster of little touches can be seen under ultra violet light above the head in the background, where rather more old varnish has been left perhaps over a rather thinner area. Films of fine glazing heighten the poignancy of the shadows in the face and these remain beautifully preserved. Ecce Homo. Here also the main retouching to be found under ultra violet light is along the base edge and nearby where there is one evident accidental damage not far from the lower right corner. There is some other retouching at the top edge and near the top left corner. Within the figure there are minute touches in the open glazing of the face, and three brief retouchings in the body: one on the shoulder, another nearby on the upper arm and one other on the chest. However the surrounding paint is beautifully intact and strong, overlaid by highly diluted veils of glazing, giving a particular vaporous effect. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Depictions of the Ecce Homo and Mater Dolorosa were highly popular within Spain during the Counter Reformation and Murillo is credited with being one of the main artists to develop a strong demand for the subjects, images of which were  proliferated throughout Spain during the Baroque period. Murillo's treatment of the subjects seen here is designed to illicit maximum empathy and pathos from the beholder in their contemplation of the tragic figure of Christ, who is depicted following His scourging, His head bowed in resignation and acceptance of His fate, whilst the Virgin looks on, helpless and unable to intervene, displaying the anguish and horror to be expected from a mother observing the trial and impending execution of their own son.

Whilst Murillo painted numerous treatments of the Ecce Homo during his lifetime, only three other pairings with the Mater Dolorosa are known to survive intact today: those in the Prado, in the Collection of the Dukes of Villahermosa, at Pedrola in Zaragoza, and with Caylus in Madrid.1 Professor Enrique Valdivieso dates the Prado and Villahermosa pairs circa 1660-70 and, the soft handling of the present works - characteristic of Murillo's full maturity - would imply a similar likely dating for this pair.

Murillo may have been inspired in his treatment of the subjects by a famous diptych by Titian painted for Charles V, which is recorded in the Escorial by 1574. The great Venetian master first produced the Ecce Homo, painted on slate, for Charles V in 1547 and subsequently, in 1554, painted a Mater Dolorosa on marble with the express intention to be a companion piece to his earlier work.2 By 1600 the diptych had been moved from the Escorial to the Alcazar and it seems plausible that Murillo could have seen the paintings there during his visit to Madrid in around 1658.

The unusual format of the painted ovals seen in the present paintings recurs solely in the pair of works by Murillo in Pedraza, whilst the pose of the figures (and in particular of Christ) are entirely different to those in the other suriving sets, suggesting the present works were an entirely independent design by the artist. The figure of Christ is broadly repeated in a three-quarter length treatment of the Ecce Homo by the artist, today in the El Paso Museum of Art which is dated by Valdivieso to around 1675-82 and thereby in all probability post-dates the present work.3

1. See E. Valdivieso, Murillo: Catalogo Razonado de Pinturas, Madrid 2010, pp. 438 – 349, nos. 251 -253 reproduced.
2. See H.E. Wethey, Titian, The Religious Paintings, vol. I, London 1969, pp. 88-89, no. 32 and pp. 115-16, no. 77, reproduced plates 96 and 97 respectively.
3. See E. Valdivieso, Murillo, Madrid 2010, p. 524, no. 363, reproduced.