Don Justino de Neve. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Oil on canvas, 206 x 129.5 cm, 1665, London, The National Gallery. Bought, 1979

Of Flemish origin, Justino de Neve was born in Seville. He was ordained in 1646 and made a canon of Seville cathedral in 1658. A cultured, energetic man, from the early 1660s or slightly before his friendship with Murillo enabled the latter to obtain some of his most important commissions: the decoration of the church of Santa María la Blanca (1664-65), the decoration of the cathedral’s chapterhouse (1667-68), and The Baptism of Christ for the upper level of the Saint Anthony Altarpiece in that saint’s chapel (1667-68).

In addition, Justino de Neve commissioned various works from Murillo for the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, the foundation for retired priests that he founded, while he also assembled his own collection of some of the artist’s finest works. In 1665 and as proof of their friendship Murillo painted his portrait (National Gallery, London), to be seen in the present exhibition, inscribing it obsequium desiderio pingebat (painted with the desire to give it). Finally, Murillo made Justino de Neve executor of his will in 1682.

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