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Zurbaran's "Santa Isabel de Turingia" is already on display at the Diego Velázquez Research Centre

October 16, 2009

Seville, 16 October 2009.- Fundación Focus-Abengoa broadened Centro Velazquez' collection with the temporary addition of Zurbaran's Santa Isabel de Turingia (Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia), property of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which took place last Saturday. The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and Fundación Focus-Abengoa reached an agreement to show the Zurbarán painting at the Centro Velázquez for the same 6-month span that the Young Murillo exhibition is scheduled to last, and which will be opening next Monday, 19 October, at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, to then move to the Fine Arts Museum of Seville.

The Fundación will lend its Murillo's Santa Catalina painting (circa 1650) , a piece of work that was recently recovered from Marshal General Soult's loot. Thus, and thanks to the outstanding relationship that binds both institutions, which started with the "From Herrera to Velázquez. Early naturalism in Seville" exhibition, a wider audience will be able to enjoy both canvases outside their usual environments.

Some authors claim that Zurbarán's Santa Isabel de Turingia portrays Santa Eulalia, and that it is paired with Bilabo Museum's Santa Catalina. Zurbarán conceived it as the pair of this latter painting. During the 17th century, it was typical for certain women who enjoyed a well-off social standing to have themselves portrayed sporting the characteristic qualities of the Saint whose name they bore, resulting in what professor Emilio Orozco Díaz came to call "retratos a lo divino" or "divine-like portraits".

Centro Velázquez considers this piece of work to be especially relevant, in the way that it clearly draws comparisons to Velázquez's Santa Rufina, and that that they both illustrate the persuasion and devotion of these kind of saints by emphasizing their beauty and elegance. In Velázquez's case, he portrayed a model who was a close acquaintance. On the other hand, Zurbarán's painting highlights his unique gifts for delicacy and virtuosity in the treatment of fabrics. This quality, which can be appreciated in the embroidery, the damasks, and the taffeta, introduce us to one of the painters of the Golden Age who was most concerned with the idea of capturing the craftwork's elegance and virtuosity.

Zurbarán had already approached the topic of the martyr virgin Saints in an industrialized manner in a series of paintings intended for the New World, but these that depict them alone or in pairs embody the best qualities of the art of the painter from Fuente de Cantos. This painting, along with Santa Catalina, held at the Bilbao Museum, is regarded as one of the masterworks produced by his own hand alone, without the assistance of his workshop, a circumstance that wasn't unusual at all in the series.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was started in 1982 as a result of the cultural work begun in 1972 by Abengoa with the publication of the works Temas Sevillanos (Themes of Seville) and Iconografía de Sevilla (Iconography of Seville). A collection of documents, books and recordings on the Kingdom of Seville or by Sevillian authors was created at the same time. This initial cultural work showed Abengoa's directors the importance of the company's involvement in activities that directly benefit society, beyond its core technology based work, and this led to the creation of the Seville Cultural Fund Foundation.

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