The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.
Some of this power derives from the fact that Zurbarán based his painting style on traditional polychrome sculptures found in Spanish churches. Just like his better-known contemporary, Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Zurbarán’s hyper-realistic paintings helped to inspire devotion in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Zurbarán inspired devotion not only in seventeenth-century Spain, but also how he does it today.