Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682) Moses drawing water from the Rock

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Lot 69
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
(Seville 1618-1682)
Moses drawing water from the Rock

Sold for £ 62,500 (US$ 77,937) inc. premium
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682)
Moses drawing water from the Rock
oil on canvas
32.8 x 75.5cm (12 15/16 x 29 3/4in).


  • Provenance
    The Collection of the Earl of Normanton, Somerley, Hampshire, 1857, by whom offered
    Sale, Christie's, London, 1 July 1966, lot 75
    With Thomas Agnews and Sons, London , where purchased by the present owner's uncle

    British Institution, 1850, no. 7

    G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London, 1857, vol. IV, p.365
    C.B. Curtis, Velasquez and Murillo, London and New York, 1883, p. 123, no. 15
    A. F. Calvert, Murillo, London, 1907, p. 156 (in the Collection of the Earl of Normanton, 'a very spirited sketch')
    D. Angulo Iñguez, Murillo. Catálogo critico, Madrid, 1981, vol. II, cat. no. 94, ill. vol. III, pl. 270
    E. Valdivieso, Murillo: Catalogo Razonado De Pinturas, Madrid, 2010, pp. 151 and 412, cat. no. 216

    His paintings for the Hospital de la Caridad are amongst the most significant commissions of Murillo's late career. A church for the lay confraternity of Charity (Hermandad de la Caridad) had been on the site since the 15th century but in 1640 it was decided to build a new church to allow more space for one of the principal duties of the confraternity, the Christian burial of unclaimed bodies such as those drowned in the nearby Guadalquivir river or those executed by the authorities. The construction of the new church was finally, after many delays, completed in 1670 and the confraternity then turned to the most important artists active in Seville at the time for the decoration of the interior. Bernardo Simón de Pineda was to complete the altarpieces, Pedro Roldán the sculpture and the paintings were to be executed by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Juan de Valdés Leal1.

    Don Miguel Mañara (1627-1679), the leader of the brotherhood, was in charge of making arrangements for the interior decoration including the iconographic programme for the paintings. Of a wealthy mercantile Seville family, Mañara was received into the brotherhood in 1662, the year after he lost his wife. This moment in his life had prompted in him a period of deep spiritual reflection and he had turned to the confraternity in order to dedicate his life to helping the poor of his native city and by the following year he was the nominated leader. In the chapter entry for the 13 July 1670, Mañara declares his intentions for the decoration of the interior of the church:

    Como acabadas las obras de nuestra iglesia, y puestos en ella, con la grandeza y hermosura que se ve seis jeroglífícos que explican seis de la obras de Misericordia2 [now the work of our church is complete, with great majesty and beauty one will see six pictures which show six of the Acts of Mercy]

    Six of the acknowledged Seven Acts of Mercy are referred to by Matthew (25: 31-40) as the reason for the salvation of the saved when the Lord says 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Mañara used this biblical text as the basis for the iconographic programme of the paintings adorning the church. The seventh act, that of burying the dead was one of the principal missions of the commissioning church and was to be represented by the sculptural group of the Burial of Christ by Roldán for the main altar. Murillo was to execute the majority of the pictures and the present work is his preparatory sketch for one of the two largest canvases - Moses drawing water from the Rock (fig.1).

    On entering the church (fig.2), the first paintings that one encounters are the two Memento mori by Valdés Leal. Entitled In ictv ocvli and Finis gloriae mvndi they serve to remind the viewer that death can arrive at any moment and that with it all of our earthly possessions and aspirations will be irrelevant. The suggestion is that the only way to ensure salvation in the afterlife is through charitable acts of mercy. Beyond these two pictures six works by Murillo were hung, three on each side, each depicting an episode from the Bible, both Old and New Testament, that relate to an act of mercy. On the left there was Abraham and the Three Angels (Giving Shelter to a Pilgrim), The Return of the Prodigal Son (Clothing the Naked), and Moses drawing Water from the Rock (Giving Water to the Thirsty). Opposite there hung first The Liberation of Saint Peter (Visiting those in Prison), then Christ at the Pool of Bethesda (Visiting the Sick) and lastly The Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes (Giving Food to the Hungry). The decorative scheme culminated in the aforementioned Burial of Christ which resided on the main altar. Given the size of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes and the Moses drawing Water from the Rock and their proximity to the altar, along with their subject matter, they may be read not only as Acts of Mercy but also as having a Eucharistic significance.

    This commission for the Hospital was of particular significance to Murillo, given that he had entered the confraternity in 1665, possibly at the suggestion of Mañara. He began work on the paintings in 1667 and was finished by 1670. Shortly after, two further works completed the programme established by Mañara: Saint John of God carrying the sick and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary tending the sick.

    Thanks to their enormous dimensions, the latter two paintings remain in situ in the Church of the Hospital de la Caridad. Other works from the scheme were taken during the Peninsular War by Marshall Soult (1769-1851) and are now housed in various museums around the world: Abraham and the Three Angels is now in the National Gallery of Ottowa, The Return of the Prodigal Son in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Liberation of Saint Peter in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, and the Christ at the Pool of Bethesda can be found in the National Gallery, London.

    Murillo received payment for the Moses painting in 1670 and preparation for the whole decorative scheme will have begun in the years preceding. A work of the same subject by the earlier Italian painter Gioacchino Assereto (1600-1640) now in the Museo del Prado but in the collection of an Antonio de Espinosa in Seville at the time may well have provided the artist with a starting point for his large canvas for the Church. Murillo has expanded and amplified Assereto's composition in response to the very wide, panoramic dimensions of the canvas. Particular attention is paid to the child on horseback to the left of the rock, silhouetted against the background and pointing to the figure of Moses. In the present work, it is clear that Murillo already intended to give this figure such significance in his composition.

    Making a small sketch in preparation for a larger work is in-keeping with Murillo's modus operandi: see, for example, his small sketch of circa 1665-70 showing The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a private collection in Valenica which was painted in readiness for his larger work of the same subject now in the Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest (inv. no. 779).

    No other sketches of this type are known for his cycle of works for the Church of Hospital de la Caridad. This modello therefore appears to be the only known preparatory work relating to this significant commission and so represents a rare opportunity at auction.

    1. For a reconstruction of the arrangement of the paintings in the church see Valdivieso (Ibid pp.148-9)
    2. see D. Angulo Iñguez (Ibid vol. I, p. 380)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682) Moses drawing water from the Rock
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Seville 1618-1682) Moses drawing water from the Rock
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