It is a “ricordo”, as the copies made by painters of an outstanding work are called, which has been analyzed by the art historian Enrique Valdivieso, who has come to the conclusion that it is a reproduction of excellent quality carried out by Murillo and which is in a very good state of conservation.
“The painting is in fantastic condition and its surface is very beautiful, which means that you can fully appreciate Murillo’s fluid brushstrokes,” Christie’s Old Masters sales director Jonquil O’Reilly told EFE.
“Although we see copies of Murillo’s works, discovering a duplicate of the author himself, hidden in a private collection for so long, is a wonderful find,” he adds.
“San Francisco embracing Christ on the cross” was made by Murillo as part of a commission from the Capuchin Order of 1665, which ended up consisting of a series of eight paintings and which ended up being not only the artist’s most ambitious project but also one of the most important groups of works of the seventeenth century in Spain.
The series of paintings was divided in 1835 with the invasion of Napoleon and it was not until a few years ago, in 2017, when it was reunited for an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Seville.
Another characteristic that enhances the exceptional character of the copy that comes up for auction is that an X-ray reveals, curiously, several alterations in the composition of the piece, evidence that the artist kept changing his mind while he was painting the picture, something that he did not usually do. be seen in the “ricordo”.
Murillo modified both the position of Saint Francis’ hands – who initially held the body of Christ more closely – and the angle of the cherub’s face that he painted in the upper right corner.
It also seems that the position of Christ’s hand changed, which at first was closed on the nail that holds it and later left it in an open and relaxed position.
“What makes it so special is what we observe in the x-rays, which shows ‘pentimenti’, (as brush strokes are called that have been hidden under modifications), the artist changing his mind and reviewing and repositioning elements of his composition” explains the representative of Christie’s.
“These glimpses of the artist’s way of working and imagining his reasoning as he paints are very exciting,” he adds.
In a statement, Christie’s also points out that the reason why Murillo rethought and revised a composition that was already known to him is unknown, and then end up painting the same version of the original painting, so the piece has a mysterious component.
(In Spains News | 2 April 2021)