MURILLO’S PICTURES IN SPANISH AMERICA.
It is related that this great Spanish painter visited America in early life, and painted there many works; but the later Spanish historians have shown that he never quitted his native country; and the circumstance of his pictures being found in America, is best accounted for by the following narrative. After acquiring considerable knowledge of the art under Juan del Castillo at Seville, he determined to travel for improvement; but how to raise the necessary funds was a matter of difficulty, for his parents had died leaving little behind them, and his genius had not yet recommended him to the good offices of any wealthy or powerful patron. But Murillo was not to be balked of his cherished desires. Buying a large quantity of canvas, he divided it into squares of various sizes, which he primed and prepared with his own hands for the pencil, and then converted into pictures of the more popular saints, landscapes, and flower-pieces. These he sold to the American traders for exportation, and thus obtained a sum of money sufficient for his purpose.
MURILLO’S “VIRGIN OF THE NAPKIN.”
The small picture which once adorned the tabernacle of the Capuchin high altar at Seville, is interesting on account of its legend, as well as its extraordinary artistic merits. Murillo, whilst employed at the convent, had formed a friendship with a lay brother, the cook of the fraternity, who attended to his wants and waited on him with peculiar assiduity. At the conclusion of his labors, this Capuchin of the kitchen begged for some trifling memorial of his pencil. The painter was quite willing to comply, but said that he had exhausted his stock of canvas. “Never mind,” said the ready cook, “take this napkin,” offering him that which he had used at dinner. The good-natured artist accordingly went to work, and before evening he had converted the piece of coarse linen into a picture compared to which cloth of gold or the finest tissue of the East would be accounted worthless. The Virgin has a face in which thought is happily blended with maidenly innocence; and the divine infant, with his deep earnest eyes, leans forward in her arms, struggling as it were almost out of the frame, as if to welcome the carpenter Joseph home from his daily toil. The picture is colored with a brilliancy which Murillo never excelled, glowing with a golden light, as if the sun were always shining on the canvas. This admirable work is now in the Museum of Seville.