Bartolomé Esteban Murillo as the painter of sweetness and light. Quatercentenary of his birth marked with an original stamp by Spanish Post

February 25th, 2017

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, one of the most important Spanish artists of all time, was born four hundred years ago in Seville. He is best known for his religious works, as well as realistic depictions of the everyday life of his times.

To celebrate the quatercentenary of the artist’s birth Spanish Post released an originally designed stamp that is excited to introduce to our readers’ attention.

Murillo, who took his mother’s surname following traditional Andalusian custom, was taught by the painter Juan del Castillo, who was related to his mother. He married Beatriz Cabrera y Villalobos, and received his first major order in 1645: a series of eleven canvasses for the cloister of the Monastery of San Francisco el Grande in Seville. He often painted images of children and gained great popularity for his paintings depicting the Virgin and Child.

It is precisely one of these works, “La Virgen de la Servilleta”, which is depicted on the stamp issued by Correos to mark this centenary of his birth. The painting  shows the Virgin and Child in the foreground, silhouetted over a round amorphous shape like a blob of paint. This is because the Premium Sheet issued represents a painter's palette with 12 stamps  forming the  blobs of   colour of the palette. The work was completed by the painter in 1666 for Los Capuchinos Church in Seville. According to the legend – to which it owes its name – the Capuchin friars realised that a napkin had gone missing from the monastery. Days later, when Murillo returned the napkin to the monastery, it had the image of the Virgin Mary on it.

In another version of the legend, one of the friars asked Murillo to paint the Virgin and Child for his cell. He asked for a canvas but the friar could not offer him more than a napkin.

Today it is on display in the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville.

With this issue, Correos once again shows that innovation is one of its main objectives, also in terms of philately, where the Premium Sheets have become highly anticipated each year among collectors and also the general public.