Zurbarán, St. Serapion (1628)
Francisco de Zurbarán was one of Baroque Spain’s most important monastery painters. His art served the purpose of inspiring monks to a greater spiritual awareness. To accomplish such an important feat, Zurbarán and his workshop lived in the monastery they were painting for. He knew his audience. He knew monasteries’ affinities for quietness and godliness. They wanted art that speaks openly, clearly, that’s sober & chaste, without complicated aesthetic charm. An example of this quiet, aesthetic but not ostentatious art is Zurbarán’s 1628 St. Serapion. This piece was part of an enourmous commission: 22 paintings for the cloister of the monastery of the Mercedarians, a medieval order that was founded to rescue Christian hostages. Unfortunately, most of the paintings have been sold off and dispersed into the world.
St. Serapion (1179 - 1240) served in the Spanish army, fought in the Reconquest of Spain, and joined the Mercedarians. There are various stories about his death, but the one Zurbarán depicted is this: Serapion died at hands of pirates in Algiers whom he was trying to convert. His captors tied him to a tree, slit his throat, cut open his stomach, and pulled out his entrails. Yet Zurbarán didn’t depict the gore of the saint’s death. His robes are perfectly in tact and he looks as if he had simply fallen asleep with his hands tied up. Scenes of martyrdom were extremely popular in Spain. Heroic martyrs who suffer for Catholicism replicate Christ’s suffering. Why not graphically portray that suffering, the way Montanes or Fernandez would in sculpture, especially since Zurbarán trained with sculptors and valued realism? Perhaps because this painting was for a monastery, and monks desired simple, obvious, calm works of art to inspire their devotions. Zurbarán referenced St. Serapion’s violent death in a quiet manner by opening up his robes, a reference to his body being cut open. The peaceful quiet of death … When believers die, they enter into eternity and their souls are at rest, no longer battling the sins and injustices of the world. This particular painting hung in a morgue, where monks would be laid to rest once they died. Instead of putting the sadness and gore of suffering and death on display, Zurbarán displayed what the faithful can aspire to: the afterlife. In this way, the St. Serapion painting acts as a visual assurance of the rewards of suffering for Christ, of martyrdom, and of dedicating oneself to converting others to the Christian faith.

Zurbarán, St. Serapion (1628)

Francisco de Zurbarán was one of Baroque Spain’s most important monastery painters. His art served the purpose of inspiring monks to a greater spiritual awareness. To accomplish such an important feat, Zurbarán and his workshop lived in the monastery they were painting for. He knew his audience. He knew monasteries’ affinities for quietness and godliness. They wanted art that speaks openly, clearly, that’s sober & chaste, without complicated aesthetic charm. An example of this quiet, aesthetic but not ostentatious art is Zurbarán’s 1628 St. Serapion. This piece was part of an enourmous commission: 22 paintings for the cloister of the monastery of the Mercedarians, a medieval order that was founded to rescue Christian hostages. Unfortunately, most of the paintings have been sold off and dispersed into the world.

St. Serapion (1179 - 1240) served in the Spanish army, fought in the Reconquest of Spain, and joined the Mercedarians. There are various stories about his death, but the one Zurbarán depicted is this: Serapion died at hands of pirates in Algiers whom he was trying to convert. His captors tied him to a tree, slit his throat, cut open his stomach, and pulled out his entrails. Yet Zurbarán didn’t depict the gore of the saint’s death. His robes are perfectly in tact and he looks as if he had simply fallen asleep with his hands tied up. Scenes of martyrdom were extremely popular in Spain. Heroic martyrs who suffer for Catholicism replicate Christ’s suffering. Why not graphically portray that suffering, the way Montanes or Fernandez would in sculpture, especially since Zurbarán trained with sculptors and valued realism? Perhaps because this painting was for a monastery, and monks desired simple, obvious, calm works of art to inspire their devotions. Zurbarán referenced St. Serapion’s violent death in a quiet manner by opening up his robes, a reference to his body being cut open. The peaceful quiet of death … When believers die, they enter into eternity and their souls are at rest, no longer battling the sins and injustices of the world. This particular painting hung in a morgue, where monks would be laid to rest once they died. Instead of putting the sadness and gore of suffering and death on display, Zurbarán displayed what the faithful can aspire to: the afterlife. In this way, the St. Serapion painting acts as a visual assurance of the rewards of suffering for Christ, of martyrdom, and of dedicating oneself to converting others to the Christian faith.

  1. pinacothequehar reblogged this from abystle
  2. rorymrtn reblogged this from caravaggista
  3. anarchala reblogged this from caravaggista
  4. chamaedaphne reblogged this from caravaggista
  5. genderdome reblogged this from enyanightmares
  6. antumbral reblogged this from caravaggista
  7. shslgangistar reblogged this from jayaprada
  8. tiredexplorer reblogged this from astranemus
  9. astranemus reblogged this from jayaprada
  10. cow-head reblogged this from jayaprada
  11. jayaprada reblogged this from caravaggista
  12. tashtook reblogged this from abystle and added:
    Zurbarán, St. Serapion (1628)
  13. harkend reblogged this from abystle
  14. povfilms reblogged this from caravaggista
  15. bloody-bloomers reblogged this from sulfato
  16. karksempire reblogged this from repulsed
  17. random-words-here reblogged this from caravaggista
  18. inmybackyard reblogged this from repulsed
  19. still-searching-for-more reblogged this from caravaggista
  20. nioniel reblogged this from caravaggista and added:
    I think Sarah will find this interesting.
  21. ibruecks reblogged this from caravaggista
  22. tampbpblr reblogged this from drencrome
  23. blog-this reblogged this from knephas and added:
    Zurbarán, St. Serapion (1628)
  24. sister-saint reblogged this from abystle
  25. frangelito reblogged this from repulsed
  26. aboutsomething-beautiful reblogged this from caravaggista
  27. un1l0rn reblogged this from la-sonambula
  28. kanirvana reblogged this from perr0
  29. abscissio reblogged this from perr0