Murillo and Justino de Neve. The Art of Friendship brings together a group of late works by Murillo that were commissioned by Justino de Neve, a canon of Seville cathedral, an important patron of art and a personal friend of Murillo’s. As such, the exhibition represents a significant contribution to research on the artist’s life and work.
The exhibition highlights Justino de Neve (1625-1685) as the patron of some of Murillo’s most outstanding and original works. Among them are the large-scale lunettes on The Founding of Santa Maria Maggiore, to be seen in the exhibition following their recent restoration and cleaning; The Immaculate Conception of the Venerables (also known as The “Soult” Immaculate Conception) from the Prado, which is shown in its original frame that still forms part of one of the altars in the church of the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes; the allegories of Spring and Summer (Youth with a Basket of Fruit) from Dulwich Picture Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland, respectively; and three exquisite religious compositions painted on obsidian, loaned from the Musée du Louvre and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Rienzi House Museum).
The exhibition is organised into various different sections. It opens with Murillo’s self-portrait, which is shown alongside the artist’s portrait of his friend and patron Justino de Neve (both National Gallery, London). The next section focuses on works painted for the church of Santa María la Blanca in Seville (Prado, Louvre and Faringdon Trust, Buscot Park, Oxfordshire), followed by works painted for Seville cathedral and the Hospital de los Venerables (the large-scale Baptism of Christ for the chapel of Saint Anthony and The Virgin and Child distributing Bread to the Priests, now in the Budapest Museum). The next section looks at works executed for Justino de Neve’s personal collection, including three small devotional works painted on Mexican obsidian, shown together for the first time since the seventeenth century, and a miniature on copper that has recently been attributed to Murillo. In total, five works have been restored by the Prado for this exhibition, three from its own collection, one from Seville cathedral and another from the Faringdon Trust.