The first works which Murillo painted after his return were for the Franciscan Convent. They brought him little money but much fame. They were eleven in number, but even the names of some are lost. One represents St. Francis resting on his iron bed, listening in ecstacy to the notes of a violin which an angel is playing to him; another portrays St. Diego of Alcalá, asking a blessing on a kettle of broth he is about to give to a group of beggars clustered before him; another represents the death of St. Clara of Assisi, in the rapturous trance in which her soul passed away, surrounded by pale nuns and emaciated monks looking upward to a contrasting group of Christ and the Madonna, with a train of celestial virgins bearing her shining robe of immortality. The companion picture is a Franciscan monk who passes into a celestial ecstacy while cooking in the convent kitchen, and who is kneeling in the air, while angels perform his culinary tasks. These pictures brought Murillo into speedy notice. Artists and nobles flocked to see them. Orders for portraits and altar-pieces followed in rapid succession, and he was full of work. Notwithstanding the fact that he was acknowledged to be at the head of his profession in Seville, his style at this time was cold and hard. It is called frio (cold), to distinguish it from his later styles. The Franciscan Convent pictures were carried off by Marshal Soult, and fortunately; for the convent was burned in 1810. His second style, called calido, or warm, dated from about the time of his marriage, in 1648, to a lady of distinguished family, named Doña Beatriz de Cabrera y Sotomayor. She was possessed of considerable property, and had lived in the village of Pilas, a few leagues southwest of Seville. Her portrait is not known to exist; but several of Murillo’s madonnas which resemble each other are so evidently portraits, that the belief is these idealized faces were drawn from the countenance of the wife of the master.

His home now became famous for its hospitable reunions, and his social position, added to his artistic merits, procured for him orders beyond his utmost ability to fill. One after another in quick succession, large, grand works were sent out from his studio to be the pride of churches and convents. At this time his pictures were noted for a portrait-like naturalness in their faces, perhaps lacking in idealism, but withal pure and pleasing; the drapery graceful and well arranged, the lights skilfully disposed, the tints harmonious, and the contours soft. His flesh tints were heightened by dark gray backgrounds, so amazingly true that an admirer has said they were painted in blood and milk. The calido, or warm manner, was preserved for eight or ten years. In this style were painted an “Immaculate Conception,” for the Franciscan Convent; “The Nativity of the Virgin,” for the high altar of the Seville Cathedral; a “St. Anthony of Padua” for the same church, and very many others equally famous. In 1874 the St. Anthony was stolen from the cathedral, and for some time was unheard of, until two men offered to sell it for two hundred and fifty dollars to Mr. Schaus, the picture dealer in New York. He purchased the work and turned it over to the Spanish Consul, who immediately returned it to the Seville Cathedral, to the great joy of the Sevillians. In 1658 Murillo turned his attention to the founding of an Academy of Art, and, though he met with many obstacles, the institution was finally opened for instruction in 1660, and Murillo was its first president. At this time he was taking on his latest manner, called the vaporoso, or vapory, which was first used in some of his pictures executed for the Church of Sta. Maria la Blanca. In this manner the rigid outlines of his first style is gone; there is a feathery lightness of touch as if the brush had swept the canvas smoothly and with unbroken evenness: this softness is enhanced by frequent contrasts with harder and heavier groups in the same picture.

But the highest point in the art was reached by Murillo in the eleven pictures which he painted in the Hospital de la Caridad. Six of these are now in their original places; five were stolen by Soult and carried to France; some were returned to Spain, but not to the hospital.

The convent of the Capuchins at Seville at one time possessed twenty pictures by this master. The larger part of them are now in the Museum of Seville, and form the finest existing collection of his works. This museum was once a church, and the statue of Murillo is placed in front of it. Although the lighting of this museum is far inferior to that of Madrid and many others, yet here one must go to realize fully the glory of this master. Among the pictures is the “Virgen de la Sevilletá,” or Virgin of the Napkin. It is said that the cook of the convent had become the friend of the painter, and begged of him some memento of his good feeling; the artist had no canvas, and the cook gave him a napkin upon which this great work was done.