The metropolitan Cathedral was the centre of religious life in Seville and the canons of its Chapter, which presided over one of the richest archdioceses in Spain, were among the city’s cultural elite.

Over the course of his career Murillo painted several important works for the Cathedral, which served to establish and consolidate his renown, some financed by private individuals and subsequently donated and others commissioned by the Chapter itself. They include the depictions of the archbishops Saint Isidore and Saint Leander(1655) for the sacristy; Saint Anthony and the Christ Child (1656) for the Baptistery Chapel; and the Birth of the Virgin (1660) for the chapel of the Concepción Grande. When Justino de Neve was elected Mayordomo de Fábrica of the Cathedral in 1667, becoming responsible for the maintenance of its fabric and of the works of art housed within it, he embarked on a number of projects aimed at enhancing the building from an artistic viewpoint. So committed was he to this aim that on occasions he contributed funds from his own resources. It was at this point that Murillo received two further important commissions for the Cathedral. The first was the decoration of the ceiling of the Chapter House, where the canons held their meetings, with subjects intended to inspire virtue and devotion, namely an Immaculate Conception and eight tondos with depictions of the leading Sevillian saints (Isidore, Leander, Ferdinand, Hermenegild, Pius, Laureanus, Justa and Rufina). The second commission was for the large canvas of The Baptism of Christ for the Baptistery Chapel, a work that has been restored at the Museo del Prado for the present exhibition

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