Bartolomé E. Murillo (1617 – 1682)
Inmaculada Concepción (La Colosal), ca. 1650
Oil on linen
Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla, Seville, Spain
Mark Twain mentions this painting in The Innocents Abroad (which I happen to be reading right now). Or does he?
I have heard two very intelligent critics speak of Murillo's Immaculate Conception (now in the museum at Seville,) within the past few days. One said:
"Oh, the Virgin's face is full of the ecstasy of a joy that is complete--that leaves nothing more to be desired on earth!"
The other said:
"Ah, that wonderful face is so humble, so pleading--it says as plainly as words could say it: 'I fear; I tremble; I am unworthy. But Thy will be done; sustain Thou Thy servant!'"
The reader can see the picture in any drawing-room; it can be easily recognized: the Virgin (the only young and really beautiful Virgin that was ever painted by one of the old masters, some of us think,) stands in the crescent of the new moon, with a multitude of cherubs hovering about her, and more coming; her hands are crossed upon her breast, and upon her uplifted countenance falls a glory out of the heavens. The reader may amuse himself, if he chooses, in trying to determine which of these gentlemen read the Virgin's "expression" aright, or if either of them did it.
Now, that looks to me like a full moon, and I would say that her hands are neither crossed nor across her breast, and that her countenance is not particularly uplifted. The Immaculate Conception was a frequent topic for Murillo, and in almost every case, he painted Mary standing in a crescent moon with he hands crossed upon her breast, and looking upward. (See, for example, this and this and this and this and this and this and this.) The one in Seville is about the only one that doesn't follow that pattern. So I don't exactly know what Twain is talking about in that passage quoted above. Still, it's a heckuva nice picture.