The Oil Paintings in St Peters Church

The two large oil paintings that are hanging in St Peters Church were in The Rectory for many years when the Revd. Gardner was in residence, and were moved into the Church for safe keeping during WW-2 when the house was occupied by the army. The pictures were donated to the Church by the Revd. Gardner’s family after the war ended when the house was put up for sale. They have recently been assessed by an Essex based art historian with a special interest in Spanish paintings as 19th century copies of two well know works by the 17th century Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682). Today the originals are housed in Museo de Bellas Artes, in Seville.

The versions in St Peters Church are slightly smaller, are darkened by age and smoke, having been hung over fireplaces in the Rectory for many years, but they are remarkably similar to the originals. They are not signed or dated and it is not know how long they had been in the Rectory or how they were acquired. The originals were originally commissioned in circa 1668 for the Capuchin Church in Seville. The titles of the paintings are The Adoration of the Shepherds and St. Thomas of Villanueva Distributing Alms.

The Adoration of the Shepherds

 

 

version in St Peters

(a digitally enhanced image)

the original in Seville

 

 

 

St. Thomas of Villanueva Distributing Alms

 

 

version in St Peters

(a digitally enhanced image)

the original in Seville

 

 

To see online versions of the originals go to...

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_adoraci%C3%B3n_de_los_pastores,_de_Bartolom%C3%A9_Esteban_Murillo_(Museo_de_Bellas_Artes_de_Sevilla).jpg

and...

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Esteban_Murillo_-_Santo_Tom%C3%A1s_de_Villanueva_dando_limosna.jpg

 

These extracts about the original paintings were taken from... www.historyandarts.com

St. Thomas of Villanueva Distributing Alms

Murillo painted this Saint Thomas for the last chapel along the right nave in the Capuchin monastery in Seville. The main figure in this image is not a Franciscan monk as in the other images painted for the church. Saint Thomas was an Augustinian saint whose presence was justified because of his charitable deeds - giving alms was one of the Franciscan order's main activities. Another reason for including Saint Thomas in the decorative scheme was that he was from Valencia and in the Capuchin community in Seville there were a number of friars from this region who were particularly devoted to the saint.

Saint Thomas is depicted in an architectural interior which allows Murillo to create a magnificent sense of depth by alternating planes of light and shade. The saint presides the scene, having abandoned his theological studies - his books can be seen on the table on the left - to devote himself to charitable acts, giving alms to a number of beggars. A crippled man kneels at the saint's feet, stretching out his hand to take the coins, creating a striking foreshortening. On the right there are more beggars. A young boy looks gratefully at the saint, an old man looks at his hand to check that he still has his coin while the old woman behind him looks worried. In the foreground on the left is one of Murillo's most attractive groups of figures with a woman and her son. The mother's breasts are revealed as she affectionately receives the small child who has just been given some coins by the saint. The pair's closeness to the spectator means that we also take part in the sharing out of the alms.

The image Murillo combines the naturalism that characterises much of his work with an atmospheric sensation achieved through his use of light and colour, inspired by the Venetian School. The brushwork is rapid, helping him create one of his best works. According to Palomino, Murillo himself felt that it was his best work.

The Adoration of the Shepherds

This version of Adoration of the Shepherds was once in the third chapel along the right nave in the Capuchin church in Seville. It is one of the most striking scenes in the series both because of its baroque composition and the harmonious effect of the way parts of the image have been set against the light. The Virgin opens the blanket to show the newborn baby to the group of shepherds, made up of an old man, a younger man and woman and a child, thus capturing the cycle of life. Each of the shepherds offers a gift to the new parents - who also gaze at the child with rapt expressions. In the upper part of the image there is a small celestial vision of glory made up of two angels in opposing foreshortened postures, creating a greater sense of movement. The figures' expressions have been taken from everyday life and the Virgin or the woman gazing at the newborn baby are particularly beautiful images.

The whole scene exudes gentleness and simplicity without renouncing the spirituality that is necessary in a holy image. The composition is organised around diagonals which gives a sense of rhythm and movement. These diagonals are reinforced by the illumination produced by a diagonal beam that penetrates the image from the left, filling the main scene with light and leaving the rest in shadow. Thanks to the light and the rapid, impasted application of colour Murillo creates an aerial sensation that is difficult to equal.

 

Biographical details of Bartolomé Murillo

an extract from...  http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/m/murillo/biograph.html

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban, 1617-1682

Murillo was a Spanish painter active for almost all his life in his native Seville. After making his reputation with a series of eleven paintings on the lives of Franciscan saints for the Franciscan monastery in Seville (1645-46) The pictures are now dispersed in Spain and elsewhere. He displaced Zurbaran as the city's leading painter and was unrivalled in this position for the rest of his life.

 

Most of his paintings are of religious subjects, appealing strongly to popular piety and illustrating the doctrines of the Counter-Reformation church, above all the Immaculate Conception, which was his favourite theme. His mature style was very different to that seen in his early works; it is characterized by idealized figures, soft, melting forms, delicate colouring, and sweetness of expression and mood. The term 'estilo vaporoso' (vaporous style) is often used of it. Murillo also painted genre scenes of beggar children that have a similar sentimental appeal, but his fairly rare portraits are strikingly different in feeling - much more sombre and intellectual.

An outstanding self-portrait of him is in the National Gallery, London...

In 1660, with the collaboration of Valdés Leal and Francisco Herrera the Younger, Murillo founded an academy of painting at Seville and became its first president. He died at Seville in 1682, evidently from the after-effects of a fall from scaffolding. He had many assistants and followers, and his style continued to influence Sevillian painting into the 19th century. His fame in the 18th century and early 19th century was enormous. With Ribera he was the only Spanish painter who was widely known outside his own country and he was ranked by many critics amongst the greatest artists of all time. Later his reputation plummeted, and he was dismissed as facile and sugary, but now that his own work is being distinguished from that of his numerous imitators his star is rising again.

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Murillo’s most popular paintings were widely copied in the Victorian period and a considerable number of these remain in stately homes, museums and churches in the UK. A search for Murillo in... www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk  indentifies about 70 of his paintings around the country. In East Anglia there is known to be just two, one hanging in St Martin’s Church, Chipping Ongar, Essex and one in Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, both are identified as copies...

                

               Madonna and Child                 Infant John the Baptist with Lamb       .

St. Martin’s, Ongar                           Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

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