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Work The Angels' Kitchen
Department of Paintings: Spanish painting
© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing
The Angels' Kitchen depicts a Franciscan friar in ecstasy and celestial cooks at work. In one of Murillo's first major commissions, executed for the Small Cloister of the Franciscan monastery in Seville, he combines angels and still life motifs in a graceful and realistic manner.
A miracle in the kitchen
In the kitchen of a monastery, a Franciscan friar in ecstatic prayer, featured on the left, levitates in a nimbus. His Father Superior and two gentlemen, who have just entered, look on in amazement. The two large graceful angels in the middle of the picture separate the friar's ecstasy from the next episode, depicted on the right. Several angels and cherubs are going about the friar's work as he now looks on in amazement at the back of the kitchen. The celestial cooks are preparing food, grinding spices, scouring a saucepan, setting the table. In one canvas, Murillo achieves a natural blend of mystical figures and realistically painted still lifes: copper cauldrons, an earthenware pitcher, vegetables, a joint of meat. According to the verse inscription at the bottom of the picture, the friar's name is Francisco, but his identity has not been established with certainty. It could be Francisco Perez, the cook at the Seville monastery who was venerated for his piety, or Francisco Diraquio, a Greek friar known for his ecstasies.
A Franciscan cycle
This picture was part of the first major commission awarded to Murillo, the Sevillian painter who dominated the latter half of the 17th century. In 1645, the Franciscans in Seville commissioned him to paint a cycle of thirteen pictures for the Small Cloister of their monastery. The Musée du Louvre has another painting in the cycle, Friar Junipero and the Pauper. The canvases depict miracles, acts of charity and the ecstasies of saints or blessed Franciscans, such as the order's founders Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare, and Spanish friars. The Franciscan order insisted on piety and Christian charity.
Naturalism and grace
One of Murillo's rare signed and dated canvases (1646), it has aspects typical of his early period, during which he also painted The Young Beggar (Musée du Louvre). Murillo still found it difficult to link both parts of the composition and the picture is above all influenced by the naturalism of Velázquez and Zurburán. The visitors and the friar are portrayed with realism. The chiaroscuro is intense, the saint's frock is vigorously modeled, and the impasto is thick and granular, for example on the saint's face and body. The idealized features and graceful movements of the two angels in the middle, however, reveal new aspirations. Their robes are delicately colored and their treatment is fluid and transparent. Murillo's conception of space is also coherent in its representation of the kitchen on the right and the angels on different planes. Certain areas of the canvas herald the painter's style after 1660, as they show he is already evolving towards the gentler manner of, for instance, The Birth of the Virgin (Musée du Louvre).
BibliographyAyala Mallory Nina, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Madrid, Éditions Alianza, 1983, pp. 26-27, 36-39.
Ressort Claudie, Écoles espagnole et portugaise, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002, pp. 206-207.
Bartolomé Esteban MURILLO (Seville, 1618 - Seville, 1682)
H. 1.80 m; W. 4.50 m
Acquired in 1858
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