Fundación Focus
<em>Velázquez Centre</em>

Velázquez Centre

Focus Foundation

Francisco de Herrera the Elder

(Seville, c. 1590 – Madrid, 1654)
Artist biography

The Immaculate with St Joachim and St Anne, c. 1635

Oil on canvas

194 x 128 cm.

Fundación Fondo de Cultura de Sevilla

The Immaculate with St Joachim and St Anne, c. 1635

Herrera the Elder, with whom Velázquez served as an apprentice for a few months in 1610, was one of the key painters embracing naturalism in Seville, along with Roelas. Trained in the Mannerist rhetoric of the late 16th Century, he was one of the first artists to make the leap to painting in a natural fashion. This piece is another look at the theme of the Immaculate Conception, based on the versions by Martínez Montañés, plotting out a narrative and iconographic discourse that reconstructs the most vivid aesthetic of the time, complementing the sculpture of Martínez Montañés and the paintings by Zurbarán on the same subject.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was one of the main subjects of discussion in Seville, both in intellectual and artistic circles, in the late 16th and early 17th Century. The city later threw itself behind the defence of the Marian cult, contributing to the creation of a new iconography of the Virgin Most Pure Immaculate Conception. This painting shows the scene in characteristic format, although Mary is shown accompanied by her parents St Joachim and St Anne, a recurrent motif in the representations of the genealogy of the Virgin, or more specifically in the scene called Picking of the Lilies, both of which are taken from apocryphal books and common in the art of the late Medieval era in Spain. The perfect composition and layout, and the depiction of common aspects of daily life shown in this picture, are all elements that would have a strong impact on the artistic development of the young Velázquez.

Efforts have recently been made to identify the painter of this work, which formed the central section of the altarpiece in the Encarnación chapel in Triana, and which the master commissioned in 1635.

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