Contact for press

You can contact us by:

Rocio Castro. Communication Department.

Media Kit

Follow us on:

Keep up-to-date on the latest at the Abengoa website:


Velázquez's "Santa Rufina": End of the journey

July 17, 2007

The "Santa Rufina" is now ours. The Focus-Abengoa Foundation, in collaboration with the Seville City Council, which has made the paintings it owns available to the future Casa Velázquez and research centre in the headquarters of the Seville Foundation, has recovered it for Spain. And the intrigues and suspicions as to whether or not it is by Velázquez are over. Now that the canvas, now protected from appraisals, has been restored and in exchange will be kept for everyone by the City of Seville, it is time to summarise the reasons for which I firmly believe that Velázquez was its author.

Firstly, the technique. As I wrote in 1999, "Technique, preparation and "ductus" are all undoubted those of the master in a period of transformation from his Seville technique to contact with what Madrid and its collections offered him, which explains the hesitation in placing it prior to or after his visit to Rome of 1630 or 1631."

After its restoration, the drawing is observed to be tighter and there is a greater density of paste in details such as the superb palm leaf, praised even by Jonathan Brown in his article, and the white cup and saucer that still evoke the marvellous mastery of Seville still-life paintings. But even the female model for the child’s portrait is directly related to the figures of saints that appear in the upper part of Velázquez’s “la imposición de la casulla a San Ildefonso”, painted between 1622 and 1623, before he left Seville to settle at Court. Furthermore, what is more surprising still, is that on removing the thick layer of yellowish varnishes, an imprint from cleaning the brush was discovered on the right-hand side of the canvas. Velázquez did not use to clean his brushes with care, trusting that the background paint would cover the marks. And as this is very light, if the cleaning is a little thorough, these are revealed. This is seen in the portrait of the “Infante Don Carlos” in the El Prado Museum and on other canvases of the time, which makes me think of the date of 1628-29 when he also painted the “Sibila”, also in El Prado, whose silken locks and bun are eternally identifiable in "Santa Rufina".

Secondly, the painting’s trajectory also completely assures that it is a work by Velázquez, although it appears underlined in some of the collections through which it has passed, identifying it as either “Santa Rufina” or “Santa Justa”, which has hindered its identification. The painting appears in relation with works belonging to the Marquis of Carpio, in an inventory drawn up for legal proceedings to do with the succession of the House of Alba in 1802, where it alludes to, “A painting of Santa Rufina, from the waist up, holding a palm leaf and cup and saucer in her hands, an original work by Diego Velázquez, of three quarters and a half in height and two thirds and two gingers wide.” From the House of Alba it was transferred on a date unknown to Goya’s friend from Cadiz, Sebastián Martínez (1740-1800), in whose posthumous inventory it figures as “Santa Justa” and is assayed at a value of 1,500 reales (Spanish currency of the time). It passed by direct inheritance to his daughter, Catalina Martínez and from her to her brother-in-law, Fernando Casado de Torres, who valued it at 5,000 reales. Another change of ownership took it the collection belonging to Celestino García Fernández in 1844, where José de Madrazo describes it as Velázquez’s “Santa Justa” and he values it at 10,000 reales. It subsequently went to the Marquis of Salamanca who auctioned it in Paris in 1867 under the title of a “Santa Clara” by Velázquez, although by the sales catalogue description, it is undoubtedly the same painting, describing it in exactly the same way with the palm leaf and the cup and saucer and the figure from the waist up, her characteristic costume and identical measurements. It was sold to Cooke, Lord Dudley’s legal representative, who kept it but attributed it to Murillo, explicable due to the nineteenth century fame of said artist in Great Britain. The painting appears as Murillos’s “Santa Justa” when it is auctioned in 1925 in New York; it reappeared in 1948 in the Buenos Aires art market, being located in 1951 in Brazil, where it remained until its sale in New York in 1999, being bought by the owner who put it up for sale in London, to be finally acquired by Focus-Abengoa for the City of Seville.

Thirdly, the careful scientific, technical as well as historic appraisal to which the canvas was submitted and the conclusive opinions and studies by Peter Cherry and Carmen Garrido’s experts, one of the top authorities on the technique of Velázquez, fully assure the Seville painter to be the author of the canvas. There are not few of us who believe in the painting. But all of this will be definitively settled in the strictly scientific sphere of the International Symposium that will be held in Seville and attended by all the leading authorities on the work of the Seville painter, so that once and for all the reasons explaining why it was Velázquez who painted this work can be given, which thanks to business, municipal and popular generosity, ends its journey in the city of the man who painted it.

A second in history

On 4th July, the Focus-Abengoa Foundation acquired for Seville the painting entitled “Santa Rufina”, by Velázquez, (1628-9).

The acquisition was by auction held at Sotheby’s of London.

The process was the fruit of an intense and special collaboration between the City Council of Seville and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation, which will extend its effects through the creation of a hall (Casa Velázquez) located in the Foundation’s headquarters in Seville to house other works by the same artist also located in Seville, such as the “Imposición de la Casulla a San Ildefonso” (Velázquez, 1622-23), owned by the City Hall, together will a biographical and cultural accompaniment that will act as a backdrop for this painter’s work and his link with Seville.

"Santa Rufina" thus returns to Seville, or rather Seville recovers the painting. And this change in approach is a sensitive one for many reasons.

Firstly, the acquisition is, as we were saying, the outcome of close collaboration between public institutions (the Seville City Council) and private institutions (The Focus-Abengoa Foundation) following a popular initiative (“Velázquez for Seville”). This kind of co-operation is not new either in the general (public-private) aspect or in the specific (City Council – Focus-Abengoa Foundation) aspect, however it takes on a transcendental importance when we observe that the object of said co-operation is not merely for the acquisition of a painting, but rather through this relationship the Local Authority and the Foundation enter into a commitment and they enter into a commitment with Seville, to build and promote the Casa Velázquez over a period of 75 years, a period with a clearly permanent vocation.

Secondly, because the selling process of the painting has involved cleaning and restoring the work since it was last up for sale in 1999 and has enabled it to be confirmed as true Velázquez work and its special linkage with the aforecited “Imposición de la Casulla”. Even so, the technical surveys undertaken and still to be performed, undoubtedly aim to house a cultural, art and science centre in the Foundation itself, centred around the life and work of Velázquez, enhancing the city, its institutions and the very Foundation.

Thirdly, for the special human and professional circumstances that have marked this “miracle”, thanks to the silent work (and never more appropriately described) of many professionals who have worked thereon, outside the vertigo of the auction itself, who have enabled there to be a “before and an “after”, overcoming the situation as merely anecdotic, thus recovering the portrait of one the City’s patron saints for Seville to be proudly exhibited in “its” Foundation, taking a qualitative leap that converts it into an international reference point as regards Seville Baroque art.

Lastly, because from an emotive viewpoint, it will come as no surprise to any that for those of us who have been personally involved, it has represented a kind of catharsis. Before the painting’s four-hundred-year long history, including the survival of two world wars, the fact of living the second of these – infinitive, eternal and universal – represents a lesson in humbleness; a second in which the hope, why no think so, of a people, turns into a reality; where someone cries out, “Seville” as perhaps they did likewise in Macarena o Nervión; where the hammer does not seem to want to come down after the last bid, reminding us of the Palios who postpone their return home; that second end, and at the same time beginning, in which “the Lady” (Seville decked out in all its glory) finally breaks out into tears and Velázquez enters the Foundation, the Foundation into History and history becomes eternal in Seville.

© 2019 Abengoa. All rights reserved