The Virgin of the Rosary
The Virgin of the Rosary by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) is an excellent example of the artist’s late style, when he was painting in his so-called estilo vaporoso (‘vaporous style’). The contours of the figures of the Virgin and the Christ Child have been softened and light suffuses the composition, enveloping them in a gentle glow. Although both figures have been idealised to a great extent, they retain a familiar humanity, seen in the child’s carefully combed hair and the way he toys with the beads of the rosary.
While it is unknown who commissioned this painting, it was likely made for a Dominican church or a monastic chapel, either in Murillo’s Spanish hometown of Seville or nearby Cádiz. The commission must have been an important and valuable one because the materials used by Murillo are of the highest quality. Murillo painted on to a fine linen canvas, woven with a distinctive pattern of crosses and squares. For the intense blue glazes of the Virgin’s drapery, he used ultramarine, a pigment so expensive that it was rarely used in Spain, demonstrating the wealth of the church or confraternity that commissioned this altarpiece.