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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
THE PIETÀ
Estimate
70,00090,000
LOT SOLD. 399,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
32

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
THE PIETÀ
Estimate
70,00090,000
LOT SOLD. 399,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings Evening Sale

|
New York

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
SEVILLE 1618 - 1682
THE PIETÀ

Provenance

Justino de Neve (1625–1685);
From whom acquired by Don Nicolás Omazur (d. 1698);
Possibly Queen María Luisa, Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid;
Anonymous sale, London, 15 April 1813;
Where acquired by Hugh A. J. Munro of Novar, London;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's 1 June 1878, lot 62 (as Murillo), to S.H. Fraser;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 7 May 1904, lot 60 (as Murillo), to Bloefeld;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 15 January 1985, lot 185 (as Studio of Murillo);
There acquired by the present collector. 

Literature

W. Stirling Maxwell, Annals of the Artist of Spain, 1848, vol. III, p. 1431;
C.B. Curtis, Velasquez and Murillo, 1833, cat. no. 2271;
D. Angulo Iñiguez, Murillo, Madrid 1981, vol. II, cat. no. 1.675 (under "obras discutibiles");
Probably W.B. Jordan, “A Forgotten Legacy. Murillo’s Cabinet Pictures on Stone, Metal and Wood”, in Bartolomé Estaban Murillo (1617-1682). Paintings from American Private Collections, exhibition catalogue, 2002, pp. 68, 194, under footnotes 29-33. 

Catalogue Note

This cabinet-size Pietá on copper belongs to a rare but highly prized portion of Murillo's output. Works on hard surfaces, or láminas, were produced by Murillo in small quantities throughout his career for only his most discerning patrons. That Murillo painted a number of láminas (on copper, obsidian and other stone) is attested to by the record of such works in extant documentation from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the inventory drawn up on the death of the artist’s son Gaspar in 1685, no less than nine are recorded. On the death of the artist’s great patron and original owner of this picture, Don Justino de Neve in 1685, his other principal patron Don Nicolás Omazur acquired a further seven. Despite the clear documentation of these works however, only a relatively small number of láminas by the artist have been correctly identified today. This is perhaps partly due to the reluctance of the leading Murillo expert of the 20th century, Diego Angulo Iñiguez, to accept any such works, adhering rigidly to his interpretation of the word lámina as panel. In his seminal monograph on Murillo (published in 1981) he includes all works listed as on copper, including the present example, under ‘obras discutibles’ (uncertain attributions). More recently however, the subject was reconsidered in detail by Professor William B. Jordan, as a result of which a number of these works have been correctly restored to the artist’s oeuvre.1

Thanks to recent research, the present work has been be connected to the collections of the important aforementioned early champions of Murillo: Don Justino de Neve and Don Nicolás Omazur. Jordan describes the Pietá from their collections as lost, though in great detail through Omazur's posthumous inventory.2  According to Jordan, the copper Pietá was likely paired with a Holy Family with Saint John, also on copper and of identical size and octagonal construction today in the Landsdowne collection at Bowood House.3 These two works appear to have been separated sometime in the early 1800's, as the Pietá alone entered the famed British collection of Hugh A. J. Munro of Novar in 1813 (fig. 1). Following his landmark series of sales 1878 the picture was largely forgotten, likely due to the misunderstanding of these unique objects as a collective whole. 

Murillo’s láminas were conceived as independent works intended for personal devotion, as opposed to his small-scale preparatory sketches, which are freer and more summarily executed. Indeed, Murillo’s works on copper exhibit what Jordan describes as an “exquisite balance of spontaneity and finish”. In this example, Murillo demonstrates his ability to translate a large-scale composition into the scale of the individual viewer. Specifically, he has reinterpreted the large Pietá originally executed for the Iglesia de los Capuchinos in Seville (fig. 2) and provided an equally powerful, yet intimately scaled object for spiritual and intimate devotion. 

We are grateful to Benito Navarette and Enrique Valdivieso for endorsing the attribution to Murillo and for their assistance in the cataloguing of this lot. 

1. see W.B. Jordan, “A Forgotten Legacy. Murillo’s Cabinet Pictures on Stone, Metal and Wood”, in Bartolomé Estaban Murillo (1617-1682). Paintings from American Private Collections, exhibition catalogue, 2002, pp. 63-73.
2. Ibid. "Yten una lamina ochavada pintada Ntra. Sra. y Nro. Sor. Jesus Xpto vajado de la Cruz y unos Angelitos llorando original del dho Murillo con su moldura dorada de plata fina y cavecitas de angelitos de bronze sobre dorado."
3. Ibid. p. 68. 

Master Paintings Evening Sale

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New York