In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Francisco de Zurbarán

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Monographic Exhibitions
  • Biographical Sources
  • Technical Studies and Creative Process
  • Self-Reflexive Painting
  • Monastic Commissions
  • Series
  • Still Lifes
  • Madrid 1634 and 1658–1664
  • Export to the Spanish Viceroyalties
  • Reception

Art History Francisco de Zurbarán
Alexandra Letvin
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 March 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0181


Francisco de Zurbarán (b. 1598–d. 1664) was a leading painter in Seville between the 1620s and 1650s. Born in Fuente de Cantos, a small village in Extremadura, he trained in Seville between 1614 and 1617 before establishing himself in Llerena, a town near his birthplace. In 1626, he returned to Seville with a commission to execute twenty-one paintings for the Dominican Monastery of San Pablo el Real. This project led to commissions from many of the city’s monastic institutions, which became a primary source of patronage for him. As demand for Zurbarán’s paintings increased both in Spain and the Spanish Viceroyalties, he established a workshop. While based in Seville, he traveled at least twice to Madrid: once, in 1634, to participate in the pictorial decoration for Philip IV’s Hall of Realms at the Buen Retiro Palace, and again in 1658 when he moved permanently to the city. Zurbarán’s fame had already begun to wane in the decade before his death and it was only in the 18th century that he came to be rediscovered by Spanish artists and critics. A familiarity with the artist’s early reception history is key to understanding the framework and arguments of the 20th- and 21st-century monographs and monographic exhibitions dedicated to him. Scholarship on his work can be divided into categories including: technical studies, monastic commissions, series made for private and ecclesiastical patrons as well as the open market, still lifes, paintings made in Madrid, paintings made for export to the Spanish Viceroyalties, and self-reflexive paintings that demonstrate the artist’s engagement with the condition of his art.

General Overviews

The most recent catalogue raisonné for Zurbarán and his workshop is Delenda 2009–2010, following Gállego and Gudiol 1977. Overviews of Zurbarán’s work have been published throughout the 20th century in the wake of the foundational study Cascales y Muñoz 1911. Soria 1953 introduced the artist to English-speaking audiences and described his style in proto-“modernist” terms; Guinard 1960 was particularly influential for his characterization of Zurbarán as a “painter of monks and monastic painter.” Caturla and Delenda 1994 is a crucial resource for its comprehensive compilation of archival sources. Brown 1991 and Brown 1998 have been especially important for Anglophone scholarship and are suitable as general introductions for undergraduates; an online resource is Ressort 2003.

  • Brown, Jonathan. Francisco de Zurbarán. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991.

    A concise edition of Brown’s monograph on the artist first published in 1974. Forty color plates with short entries follow an introductory essay on the artist’s life, work, and reception.

  • Brown, Jonathan. Painting in Spain, 1500–1700. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1998.

    Within a larger survey of painting across the Iberian Peninsula, Zurbarán is covered in chapter 8, “The Art of Immediacy: Seville 1625–1640” (pp. 131–146) and chapter 12, “Seville at Mid-Century 1640–1660” (pp. 200–211). These chapters were published previously in Brown’s The Golden Age of Painting in Spain (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1991).

  • Cascales y Muñoz, José. Francisco de Zurbarán: su época, su vida y sus obras. Madrid: Fernando Fé, 1911.

    Foundational study of Zurbarán’s life and work, including an appendix with several archival documents.

  • Caturla, María Luisa. Francisco de Zurbarán. Translated and edited by Odile Delenda. Paris: Wildenstein Institute, 1994.

    Landmark monograph by María Luisa Caturla (b. 1888–d. 1984), published ten years after her death by Odile Delenda. Includes 209 archival documents related to the artist (an exhaustive collection at the time of publication) with brief commentaries, as well as a critical biography of María Luisa Caturla’s numerous publications on the artist and reprints of ten of her most influential articles.

  • Delenda, Odile. Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598–1664: Catálogo razonado y crítico. 2 vols. Madrid: Fundación de Arte Hispánico, 2009–2010.

    Catalogue raisonné, including works firmly attributed to Zurbarán and those attributed to his workshop.

  • Gállego, Julián, and José Gudiol. Zurbarán, 1598–1664. Translated by Kenneth Lyons. London: Secker & Warburg, 1977.

    English edition of 1976 Spanish monograph. Includes a catalogue raisonné.

  • Guinard, Paul. Zurbarán et les peintres espagnols de la vie monastique. Paris: Éditions du Temps, 1960.

    Focusing on Zurbarán’s commissions for monastic establishments, Guinard famously characterizes Zurbarán as both a “painter of monks” (peintre monastique) and a “monastic painter” (peintre monacal). Second edition published in 1988.

  • Ressort, Claudie. “Zurbarán, Francisco de.” Grove Art Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/oao/9781884446054.013.90000371176

    Biographical overview with the artist’s major commissions.

  • Soria, Martin S. The Paintings of Zurbarán. Complete Edition. London: Phaidon Press, 1953.

    Important in introducing the artist to an English-speaking audience.

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