Fundación Focus
<em>Velázquez Centre</em>

Velázquez Centre

Focus Foundation

Francisco de Zurbarán

(Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz, 1598 – Madrid, 1664)
Artist biography

Friar Peter of Oña, c. 1629

Oil on canvas

203 x 134 cm.

Seville City Council

Friar Peter of Oña, c. 1629

This comes from the Convent of La Merced in Seville, and moved on to the Convent of the Hermanas Mercedarias in 1836, where it was discovered by the Marquise of Lozoya, being acquired by Seville City Council a year later. It is clearly a piece from the famous series of Mercedarians by Zurbarán, one of the most important commissions of his younger years. These works are today held by the Museum of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, but were originally displayed in the library of the convent, where they set an example to the scholarly Mercedarians, or “guardians of the city of books”, as they were called in the delightful expression coined by the historian Paul Guinard.

The subject of the painting is Fray Pedro de Oña (1560-1626), a monk and Mercedarian preacher, who went on to become the Bishop of Gaeta. Like the rest of this series, it was painted around 1629, and displays the classic features of Zurbarán’s monks, with a sculptural profile against a dark background, and the white habit executed with surprising simplicity yet a great depth of nuance.

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