El Greco to Murillo: Spanish Painting in the Golden Age, 1556-1700

El Greco to Murillo: Spanish Painting in the Golden Age, 1556-1700

El Greco to Murillo: Spanish Painting in the Golden Age, 1556-1700

El Greco to Murillo: Spanish Painting in the Golden Age, 1556-1700

Excerpt

Spanish art, like many other aspects of Spanish culture, is considerably less familiar to the English-speaking world than the art of Holland, Italy, or France. That is not to say that the ranking painters of the Spanish school—El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Velázquez, or Murillo—have not been well studied; the scholarly literature in English devoted to them, especially in recent years, is substantial in every sense. Nonetheless, a great deal of Spanish art of the hundred and forty years in which these artists flourished, a period that can justly be called the Golden Age of Spanish painting, still remains little known outside of Spain. With one exception, even the acquaintance with the major figures of this period, and the appreciation of their art, is a phenomenon of fairly recent vintage, going back only to the mid-nineteenth century. The exception is the Sevillian painter Murillo (1617-1682), whose pictures were bought and valued outside of Spain in his own time, and whose fame climbed to ever greater heights throughout the eighteenth century; his works were taken abroad in such large numbers—particularly by English and French collectors—that a royal decree had to be passed in 1779 to put a stop to further exports. Until well into the nineteenth century, Murillo remained the best known and most admired seventeenth-century Spanish artist.

A broader interest in Spanish art began to emerge only in the early nineteenth century, as a result of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-14) and the attend-

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