- Museum number
St Isidore of Seville seated, his left arm rests on a book, he wears a bishop's mitre and robes and holds a staff in his right hand. c. 1655
Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash over black chalk
- Production date
- 1655 (c.)
Height: 260 millimetres
Width: 208 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
This is one of two drawings Murillo prepared for his painting of St Isidore that with its companion St Leander were donated to Seville Cathedral by the Archdeacon of Carmona, Juan de Federigui in 1655. The other drawing now in the Musée du Louvre was executed in pen, ink and wash in a style similar to others he made around the same time, such as The Archangel Michael (1873,0614.216) or the Studies for St John the Baptist (1873,0614.212). The Paris drawing shows the saint looking toward the viewer with a curtain, architectural details and book resting on a table behind. The British Museum drawing is executed predominately with wash and shows the saint exactly as he appears in the painting, reading the open book that rests on his knee. There are no background details other than a curtain.
The differences between the two drawings of Isidore have resulted in conflicting opinions as to their precedence and possible function. Angulo (1974) suggested that the drawings were for different paintings whereas Manuela Mena rejected the London drawing suggesting instead it was a copy of a lost work by the artist (1983) but in her catalogue raisonné (2013) she includes the sheet amongst those that formed part of album Murillo himself compiled. Yet the British Museum drawing seems to be a development on the Paris sheet, reflecting changes that may have been requested by the patron – or possibly Murillo's own revisions. Here there is greater emphasis on Isidore the scholar as he concentrates on the open book, while his office as archbishop is indicated by his crozier and mitre. The painting retains some elements of the Paris sheet, including the column base and plinth and the books on the table in the background.
The companion drawing showing his brother St Leander also in the British Museum (1873,0614.215) demonstrates a similar process of reinterpretation. In the drawing, the sheet held by the saint is lowered and he holds a crozier in his left hand. In the painting the sheet is raised and held with both hands, the right one of which also holds the crozier. The changes expressed through studies in different media should be regarded a reflection of Murillo's use of drawing as a means of working out his compositions.
The drawing was lifted in 2012 to reveal its earliest provenance (Baron St Helens) inscribed on the verso. Baron St Helens acquired around sixty drawings by Murillo from the Cathedral library in Seville between 1790–4 when he was the British Ambassador to Spain. The drawing is not individually described in the 1840 Christie’s sale catalogue of Baron St Helens' collection, but it could well have been part of the Lot 90 'five sketches of saints'.
E. du Gué Trapier, 'Notes on Spanish Drawings', Notes Hispanic, 1, 1941, p.36; J. Baticle, 'Le dessin en Espagne au XVIIeme siècle, l'Oeil, 81, 1961; D. Angulo Íñiguez, 'Algunos dibujos de Murillo', Archivo Español de Arte, XLVII, 1974, pp. 97–108; J. Brown, Murillo and his Drawings, Princeton, 1976, cat.no.12; A.E. Pérez Sánchez & B. Navarrete, 'Tres siglos de dibujo Sevillano', exh.cat., Seville, 1995, cat.no.77; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.150-1; J. Brown, 'Murillo: Virtuoso draftsman', New Haven and London, 2012, no.12; M. P. McDonald, 'El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya', exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, cat.no.33; M. Mena Marqués, 'Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682): dibujos: catálogo razonado', Santander 2013, B2.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, Spanish Drawings (no cat)
1995/6 Nov-Feb, Seville, Hosp Venerable/Sacerdotes, Drawings in Seville, no.77
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number