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.
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