At first glance, the young girl in this painting could be that of any child praying for assistance with her embroidery. But, look a little closer and you might notice her halo of infant’s faces. This is no mere girl but the Virgin Mary as a Child.
Francisco de Zurbarán was a Spanish painter who lived from 1598 to 1664. He is perhaps most well-known for his portraits of virgin martyrs. His depiction of Mary as a young girl, with a girl’s concerns perhaps was inspired by the debates raging at the time it was painted. The whole issue of the Immaculate Conception became one of great scholarly debate around 1616 in Seville. Many artists, but particularly Zurbarán, would paint girlish and innocent paintings of Mary in the years that followed. This one was painted in 1630.
This oil on canvas work measures 117 × 94 cm and is probably far more striking in person than it is here on The Famous Artists. It’s a bit hard to see, but if you look closely, you will see the light which forms a halo around Mary’s head foreshadows her coming role as the mother of Christ.
To learn more about Zurbarán and see more examples of his work, please visit our page on Francisco de Zurbarán.