This picture is a typical example of Zurbaran’s paintings of monks. The artist could not have composed it more simply: just two figures fill the frame, separated by a diagonal line. On the left is St. Peter, who was crucified upside-down because he said to his executioners that he did not deserve to die in the same way as Jesus. On the right, St. Peter Nolasco gazes at him in devotion. The most noticeable thing about the picture is the artist’s gift of painting different shades of white, as we can see from the apostle’s pure white loincloth and the ivory colour of St. Peter Nolasco’s habit. One can also see the different qualities of the cloth, which is heavier in the Mercedarian friar’s cape.
Unfortunately, Zurbaran began to lose clients in Seville, and his paintings became less highly prized, perhaps because of competition from Murillo. So he moved to Madrid, where Velazquez offered him help, getting him a commission to paint the Labours of Hercules for the Salon de Reinos in the Retiro Palace, although mythology was never his favourite subject. He died penniless in Madrid, four years after his loyal friend Velazquez.
(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns
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