PAINTING IN SPAIN.

Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1618-1682) was born at Seville. His parents were Gaspar Estéban and Maria Perez, and the name of his maternal grandmother, Elvira Murillo, was added to his own, according to Andalusian custom. From childhood he showed his inclination for art, and although this at first suggested to his parents that he should be educated as a priest, the idea was soon abandoned, as it was found that his interest in the paintings which adorned the churches was artistic rather than religious. He was therefore, at an early age, placed in the studio of his maternal uncle, Juan de Castillo, one of the leaders of the school of art of Seville. Castillo was then about fifty years old, and had as a student with Louis Fernandez acquired the Florentine style of the sixteenth century—combining chaste designing with cold and hard coloring. Murillo was thus early instructed not only in grinding colors and in indispensable mechanical details, but was thoroughly grounded in the important elements of purity of conception and dignity of treatment and arrangement. Seville at this time was the richest city in the Spanish empire. Its commerce with all Europe, and especially with Spanish America, was at its height. The Guadalquivir was alive with its shipping. Its palaces of semi-Moorish origin were occupied by a wealthy and luxurious nobility. The vast cathedral had been finished a century before. The tower “La Giralda,” three hundred and forty feet in height, is to this day one of the greatest marvels in Christendom, and with its Saracenic ornament and its “lace work in stone” is beyond all compare. The royal palace of the Alcazar, designed by Moorish architects, rivalled the Alhambra, and was filled with the finest workmanship of Grenada. There were one hundred and forty churches, of which many had been mosques, and were laden with the exquisite ornaments of their original builders. Such a city was sure to stimulate artists and be their home. The poorer ones were in the habit of exposing their works on balconies, on the steps of churches or the cathedral, or in any place where they would attract attention. Thus it often happened on festival days that a good work would command fame for an artist, and gain for him the patronage of some cathedral chapter or generous nobleman. Castillo removed to Cadiz in 1640, and Murillo, who was very poor, could only bring himself before the public, and earn sufficient for the bare necessities of life by thus exposing his pictures in the market of the Feria, as it was called, in front of the Church of All Saints. He struggled along in this way for two years. Early in 1640, Murillo met with an old fellow-pupil, Moya, who had been campaigning in Flanders in the Spanish army, and had there become impressed with the worth of the clear and strong style of the Flemish masters. Especially was he pleased with Vandyck, so that he followed him to England, and there studied as his pupil during the last six months of Vandyck’s life. Moved by Moya’s romancing stories of travel, adventure, and study, Murillo resolved to see better pictures than were to be found at Seville, and, if possible, to visit Italy. As a first step he painted a quantity of banners, madonnas, flower-pieces—anything and everything—and sold them to a ship owner, who sent them to Spanish America; and it is said that this and similar trades originated the story that Murillo once visited Mexico and other Spanish-American countries. Thus equipped with funds, and without informing his friends (his parents were dead), he started on foot across the mountains and the equally dreaded plains for Madrid, which he entered at the age of twenty-five, friendless and poor. He sought out Velasquez, and asked him for letters to his friends in Rome. But Velasquez, then at the height of his fame and influence, was so much interested in the young enthusiast that he offered him lodgings and an opportunity to study and copy in the galleries of Madrid. The Royal Galleries contained carefully selected pictures from the Italian and Flemish schools, so that Murillo was at once placed in the very best possible conditions for success. Murillo thus spent more than two years, mostly under the direction of Velasquez, and worked early and late. He copied from the Italian and Flemish masters, and drew from casts and from life. This for a time so influenced his style that even now connoisseurs are said to discern reminiscences of Vandyck and Velasquez in the pictures painted by him on his first return to Seville. At the end of two years Velasquez advised Murillo to go to Rome, and offered to assist him. But Murillo decided first to return to Seville, and perhaps had come to the resolution not to go to Italy; but this may be doubted. He knew the progress he had made; he was reasonably certain that, if not the superior, he was the equal of any of the artists he had left behind in Seville. He was sure of the wealth, and taste, and love for art in his native city. His only sister was living there. The rich and noble lady he afterward married resided near there. And so we can hardly wonder that the artist gave up a cherished journey to Italy, and returned to the scene of his early struggles with poverty.