Virgin and Child in Glory

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, from 1673

WAG 1351

About this object

The Spanish artist Murillo painted this altarpiece for the Archbishop of Seville’s private palace chapel. Rather than tell a story it presents the viewer with a heavenly vision of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. Their tender, yet troubled gazes, hint perhaps at their suffering to come. They add a human quality to a supernatural scene. Murillo’s varied Virgin and Child compositions had a great impact on Roman Catholic Church imagery in the 17th century.

The altarpiece was commissioned in 1673 by Ambrosio Ignacio Spínola y Guzmán, Archbishop of Seville (1670 - 84) for his private chapel on the ground floor of the Archbishop's palace in Seville. He paid Murillo the substantial sum of 1,000 ducats for the single painting. Its unique imagery may have been created by Murillo to cater for the Archbishop's special devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Murillo was the most important religious artist in Spain and the highest paid painter in the country at the time this work was created. His religious images and his scenes of Seville's street-children were admired in Spain and across western Europe within his own lifetime.

Murillo loved his own children, whom he brought up single-handed after his wife died in 1663. His affectionate, naturalistic portrayal of children, in religious images and scenes from daily life, influenced 18th-century English artists, such as Gainsborough and Reynolds.

From the 18th century until the mid 1860s the altarpiece suffered a complex history. During the Spanish Peninsular War (1808 - 1813) the archbishop's palace in Seville was the headquarters of the French army commander, Marshal Soult, who took the altarpiece with him to Paris as war booty. However, he did not have the central area of the canvas showing the faces of the Virgin and Child as that had already been removed and replaced with a copy in the 1780s. The two separated parts were not reunited until they were acquired by the British collector Lord Overstone in 1862.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    Virgin and Child; The Glorification of the Virgin; La Vierge Coupée
  • Artist(s)
    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Spanish, born:1617-12-31, died:1682-03-28)
  • Date
    from 1673
  • Materials
    Canvas; Oil paint
  • Measurements
    canvas; 236 cm x 169 cm; framed; 273.3 cm x 208.8 cm x 11.5 cm
  • Physical description
    Figure of a dark-haired woman (the Virgin Mary) wearing a deep blue cloak over a red robe holding in her arms a seated fair-haired baby Jesus, both of them gaze steadily at the viewer. The Virgin is standing on a base of clouds surrounded by many cherubs in a wide variety of different poses who emerge from a golden heaven and form an arched vault over the Virgin and Christ Child's head. The painted surface is arched at the top.
  • Related people
    Art Fund (Associated Person, previous owner) ; Edward Gray (Previous owner) ; Christopher Lewis Loyd (Previous owner) ; Samuel Jones Loyd (Previous owner) ; Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Artist/maker) ; Jean-de-Dieu Soult (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 1351; John Mills Photography Number: JM10041-13; John Mills Photography Number: JM24224E
  • Credit line
    Presented to the Walker Art Gallery by the Art Fund in 1953
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Art Fund

    Owned from: 1953-02
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1953-03
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Christopher Lewis Loyd

    Owned from: 1944-11
    How acquired: By descent; Inherited
    Owned until: 1953-02
    Disposal method: Sold
  • Samuel Jones Loyd

    Owned from: 1863-10
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1883-11-17
    Disposal method: Bequest
  • Jean-de-Dieu Soult

    Owned from: 1812
    How acquired: Collected; Taken
    Owned until: 1863-10
    Disposal method: Bequest; Sold
  • Edward Gray

    Owned from: 1824
    How acquired: Probably in the collection by 1824
    Owned until: 1838
    Disposal method: Sold

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: 15321
    Inscription method: Agnew label
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location:
Object view = Fine Art
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