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Agnus Dei
Zurbarán, Francisco de
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Zurbarán, Francisco de

Fuente de Cantos (Badajoz), 1598 - Madrid, 1664

Agnus Dei

1635 - 1640. Oil on canvas, 37.3 x 62 cm.

A dark background and a gray table are the setting for this painting’s only motive: a merino lamb between eight and twelve months old. Still alive, it lies with bound feet in an unmistakably sacrificial posture curiously reminiscent of famous images of martyred saints like Stefano Maderno’s moving sculpture of Saint Cecilia at the basilica of Santa Cecilia in Rome. The painter draws on Zurbarán’s peerless capacity to reproduce textures, a very calculated and directed light that creates broad areas of shadow, and a meticulous technique to concentrate the viewer’s attention on a lamb that seems to meekly accept its fatal destiny.

This is not Zurbarán’s only painting of this subject. The existence of five other versions by his hand with some iconographic variants indicates that such representations were well accepted, probably by private clients. Three of those versions are dated 1631, 1632 and 1639, respectively. Painter and writer Antonio Palomino reflected the fame acquired by these works in 1724, when he wrote: An art lover in Seville has a lamb by this maker’s hand [Zurbarán], painted from life, which he says he values more than one hundred living rams. The version at the Museo del Prado is considered the finest of the five, as it best combines technical mastery, descriptive capacity and expressiveness, as well as the greatest emotional subtlety. Historians agree that it dates from the fourth decades of the 17th century, and most specify 1635-1640, when the painter was at the height of his career.

Some of the known versions include iconographic elements that call for a religious interpretation, such as a halo around the lamb’s head or inscriptions alluding to its sacred character. Others, like the present one, lack those attributes. While this lack of rhetorical content has led some to consider it a still life, most scholars correctly interpret it as an Agnus Dei. It is true that there are no elements here except the lamb itself, but the association of this animal with Christ -Jesus sacrificed as the Lamb of God, as the liturgy puts it- was so widespread that is seems highly improbably that a 17th-century Spaniard could avoid those religious connotations and contemplate this work exclusively as a wonder of pictorial mastery or a succulent culinary promise. The representational formulas used here by Zurbarán -the contrived isolation of the motive and a focus on the transmission of its volume and textures- are typical of still lifes. And it is precisely this borderline condition that determines the confluence of religious painting and still life, making this an important work in the history of the latter genre, as a demonstration of the degree to which the borders between genres can be blurred. The canvas has wax seals with the coat of arms of Ferdinand VII on the back. It belonged to the family of the Marquis of el Socorro until the Spanish state acquired it in 1986 for the Museo del Prado (Text drawn from Portús, J.: El Prado en el Ermitage, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 130-131).


Technical data

Inventory number
Zurbarán, Francisco de
Agnus Dei
1635 - 1640
High/Height: 37.3 cm.; Width: 62 cm.
Acquired to the Marquise del Socorro, 1986.

Bibliography +

Soria, Martin S., The Painting of Zurbaran, Londres Phaidon, 1955, pp. nº77.

Guinard, Paul, Zurbaran et les Peintres Espagnols de la Vie Monastique, París : Les Edititons du Temps, 1960, pp. nº592.

Zurbarán: 1598-1664, Barcelona Ediciones Polígrafa, 1976, pp. nº282.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Zurbarán, Sevilla Guadalquivir, 1988, pp. nº53.

Zurbarán, Madrid Ministerio de CulturaBanco Bilbao Vizcaya, 1988, pp. 435-437, nº 115.

Diaz, L., Madrid. Bodegones, Mesones, Fondas y Restaurantes. Cocina y, Madrid EspasaCalpe, 1990, pp. 116.

Serrao, V., Josefa de Obidos e O Tempo Barroco, Lisboa Galeria de Pintura Do Rei D.Luis, 1991.

Caturla, Maria Luisa, Francisco de Zurbarán, Paris Wildenstein Institute, 1994, pp. 105.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La belleza de lo real: floreros y bodegones españoles en el, Madrid Museo del Prado, 1995, pp. 78, nº 13.

Últimas adquisiciones: 1982-1995, Madrid Museo del Prado, 1995, pp. 34, nº 7.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, Madrid Museo del PradoEspasa Calpe, 1996.

Zurbarán, IV Centenario, Sevilla Junta de Andalucia, Gestión de Programas Culturale, 1998, pp. 130, nº 31.

Delenda, Odile, Zurbarán dix ans après LES BEAUX-ARTS.SOCIETE D EDITION ET, 1998, pp. 134 / lám. 17.

Moreno Mendoza, Arsenio, Zurbaran, Madrid Electa, 1998, pp. 92.

Aparicio Tovar, Miguel Angel, El Merino en la Pintura Española. Siglos XIV al XVIII, Badajoz : Caja de Badajoz, 1998, pp. 161-162.

Milicua, José, El bodegón español: de Zurbarán a Picasso, Bilbao Fundación Bilbao Bizkaia KutxaMuseo de Bellas Arte, 1999.

Cherry, Peter, Arte y naturaleza: el bodegón español en el siglo de oro, Aranjuez (Madrid) Ediciones Doce Calles, 1999, pp. 254 / lám. 180.

Finaldi, Gabriele, The image of Christ, London National Gallery Company Limited, 2000, pp. 36, nº 17.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura barroca española: guía, Madrid Museo Nacional del PradoAldeasa, 2001, pp. 120.

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado, Tokyo The Yomiuri Shimbun, 2002.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Pintura Barroca Sevillana, Sevilla Guadalquivir Ediciones, 2003, pp. 285.

Portús, Javier (1961-), La Coleccion de Pintura Española en el Museo del Prado, Madrid : Edilupa, 2003, pp. 141.

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea, Barcelona Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, 2005.

Pintura española de El Greco a Picasso : el tiempo, la verda..., Madrid : Sociedad Estatal para la Acción C, 2006, pp. 78-79.

Delenda, Odile, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598 - 1664 : catálogo razonado y crí... : Fundación Arte Hispánico, 2009, pp. 342.

Hernández Nieves, Román, La naturaleza muerta en la pintura extremeña : Museo de Bellas Artes, 2010, pp. 88-89.

Zurbarán : el pintor del misticismo : Siruela, 2011.

El Prado en el Hermitage : Museo Estatal del Hermitage : Mus, 2011, pp. 130-131.

Saracino, Francesco, Cristo a Napoli. Pittura e cristologia nel Seicento Grimaldi & C., 2012, pp. 172-177, f.108.

Mena, M. Albarrán, V., La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2013, pp. 27 n.103.

Mena Marques, M, La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2013, pp. 226.

Cano, Ignacio, 'Zurbarán (1598-1664)' En:, Ferrara Fondazione Ferrara Arte - Centre dex Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, 2013, pp. 16-35 [27].

Cano, Ignacio, 'Zurbarán (1598-1664)' En:, Bruselas Bozar Books - Fonds Mercator, 2014, pp. 10-29 [19].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (desde 1856). Núm. 2168.
Autor: Zurbarán, Francisco de / 2168. Título: Carnero pequeño /Tipo de obra: pintura / Medidas: 0,375 x 0,620 / Técnica/soporte: óleo sobre lienzo / Nº de Catálogo: 7293 / Adquirido por el Estado por derecho de tanteo a Durán, sala de arte y subastas (subasta nº 200, lote 47, febrero 1986) en 26.400.000 pts. / O.M. 26-II-1986. / Ingresado en el museo el 1-IV-1987

Exhibitions +

Contraprestación con el Museo de Arte del Banco de la Repúblca
Bogotá, D.C.
07.03.2016 - 30.06.2016

Exposición didáctica: el Museo del Prado en San Salvador
San Salvador, El Salvador
23.10.2015 - 29.11.2015

Exposición didáctica: el Museo del Prado en Guatemala
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
21.07.2015 - 30.08.2015

Exposición didáctica: el Museo del Prado en Honduras
Tegucigalpa. Honduras.
05.05.2015 - 28.06.2015

Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny
21.05.2013 - 10.11.2013

La belleza encerrada
01.05.2013 - 01.11.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Retratos de España. Obras maestras del Prado. Brisbane / Houston
Houston TX
12.12.2012 - 01.04.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia,
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Exposición didáctica: El Museo del Prado en Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
07.07.2011 - 11.10.2011

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

Picasso et les maîtres
06.10.2008 - 26.01.2009

From El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth and History
Nueva York NY
15.11.2006 - 31.03.2007

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea
06.10.2005 - 15.01.2006

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ
23.02.2000 - 07.05.2000

El bodegón español. de Zurbarán a Picasso
03.12.1999 - 19.04.2000

Francisco de Zurbarán
15.12.1998 - 31.01.1999

Francisco de Zurbarán
09.10.1998 - 08.12.1998

Josefa D'Obidos e o tempo barroco
26.06.1991 - 31.10.1991

Location +

Room 010A (On Display)

Update date: 12-02-2016 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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