Feel Art Again: "Adoration of the Wise Men"

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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was born just in time to ring in the new year of 1618. To celebrate his birth and the ongoing Christmas season, I'm proud to present his "Adoration of the Wise Men."

1. Gaspar Esteban and María Pérez Murillo produced quite a brood of children. Bartolomé was the final of their fourteen children. Unfortunately, Gaspar and María died while Bartolomé was still young, so he was raised by an older sister and her barber/surgeon husband. After marrying in 1648, Bartolomé and his wife produced nine of their own children.

2. Murillo was a founder of Seville's Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Art) and directed it with Francisco Herrera the Younger, an architect, in 1660.

3. In one year, he painted thirteen canvases for the St. Francisco el Grande monastery, which established him as a well-respected religious painter. He then began to specialize in scenes of the Virgin and Child, as well as Immaculate Conception-themed works.

4. The "adoration of the wise men" theme is common in artwork. The scenes usually depict three wise men or kings from the East arriving at Jesus' manger to worship him. Their gifts are often described as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The holiday falls twelve days after Christmas, on January 6, although it is sometimes celebrated on the Sunday nearest to January 6. A story in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is the inspiration for the holiday and thus for the artwork.

5. While most artists sign and date their artwork, thereby making it possible to study their artistic progression, Bartolomé Murillo did not. He thought it was unnecessary to date most of his work, so art scholars today have a harder time determining the chronology of his work.

6. An artist's life is not without its own dangers and difficulties: Murillo fell from a scaffold in 1682 and died on April 3 from the resulting injuries.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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