Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Murillo

Immaculate Conception of El Escorial is one of several versions Murillo executed of this theme, but this version is widely considered to be the very highlight of his oeuvre. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that the Virgin Mary, the pure vessel that would carry Jesus Christ, was conceived without original sin, like the rest of mankind.

The theory arose in the Middle Ages but remained controversial throughout the history of Christianity, with the Church fathers reluctant to accept the doctrine (in fact, the Immaculate Conception didn't become Church dogma until 1854).

During the Counter-Reformation, many Catholics retaliated by loudly reaffirming their faith in the Immaculate Conception and thus during the Baroque period the theme became quite popular in Italian and Spanish painting. Seville in particular was a locust of activity for supporters of the dogma, and when in 1613 a sermon was delivered expressing doubts as to the verity of the Immaculate Conception, the entire city erupted. Massive demonstrations organized by the city fathers brought over 40,000 citizens into the streets to loudly proclaim that Mary was born without original sin.

After this scandal, the Immaculate Conception became even more popular in Spanish art, appearing notably in the oeuvre of Zurbarán and Velázquez. In 1661, the Spaniards finally managed to push the Pope to issue a papal bull to clarify the issue.

The iconography of the Immaculate Conception was initially difficult for artists to agree upon, but was relatively codified by the 17th century. The depiction of the Virgin Mary in this context is taken from John of Patmos's Book of Revelations, where he describes "A woman robed with sun, beneath her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. " This became the standard iconography for artists, who were also inspired by Portuguese saint Beatriz de Silva's vision of the Immaculate Conception.

The Commission: 
Murillo's many version of The Immaculate Conception were commissioned by various religious orders, particularly the Franciscan Order, of which he was a member
Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Murillo Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Murillo Reviewed by Francisco Nascimento on 05:52 Rating: 5

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