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Saint Stephen
Workshop of Morales, Luis de
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Workshop of Morales, Luis de

Badajoz (Spain), 1510 - Alcántara? (Spain), 1586

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Saint Stephen

Ca. 1575. Oil on panel.
Not on display

The most frequent image of Saint Stephen shows his stoning after his condemnation for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. The account given in the Acts of the Apostles reads: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts, 7, 59-60). The death of the young deacon marked the start of the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem and Palestine led by Saul, the future Saint Paul.

Morales has not painted the scene of the lapidation, with a group of men furiously hurling stones at Saint Stephen. Instead, he has produced a small-format work for private devotion, and faithful to his style and the type of composition he handled best, he concentrates on a bust-length image of the figure. A stone resting precariously on the saint’s head and a torn alb or shirt refer to the moment of his martyrdom, but his image has been transformed into an exemplary icon that situates the viewer close to the suffering figure of the young deacon, the first martyr of the Christian Church, with tears rolling down his cheeks and a trickle of blood on his neck. The expressive hands repeat a codified gesture of prayer and submission which was used by the painter on other occasions, as in the Saint Francis in the Colección Masaveu and the Saint Dominic at Prayer registered in Paris in 1983.

The landscape background is certainly infrequent for figures of this type, which are normally surrounded by intense black. The saint appears in a setting defined by leafy trees and, in the background, some very characteristic rocky outcrops, markedly reminiscent of Flemish models. Bäcksbacka suggested they might be interpreted as a sort of Heaven’s Gate, with an opening in the steep rocks illuminated through the gap in the storm clouds. This also finds an echo in the Acts of the Apostles, where Saint Stephen scandalises the Sanhedrin, after the accusation of blasphemy, with the words: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts, 7, 56). In the workshop version of the Oviedo panel held by the Museo del Prado, the reference is made explicit by a flight of steps leading to the heavenly gate, while included in the torrent of light is Christ the Saviour in the act of benediction (Text drawn from Ruiz, L.: The Divine Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, pp. 180-182).


Technical data

Inventory number
Workshop of Morales, Luis de
Saint Stephen
Ca. 1575
Height: 67 cm; Width: 50 cm
Donated to the Museo del Prado by the heirs of the Countess of Castañeda, 1915.

Bibliography +

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis de Morales, C.S.I.C. Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1961, pp. 45.

Backsbacka, Ingjald, Luis de Morales, Helsingfors, Helsinki, 1962, pp. 199, n. 81.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 434.

Martínez-Burgos García, Palma, Ídolos e imágenes: la controversia del arte religioso en el, Universidad, Secretariado de PublicacionesCaja de, Valladolid, 1990, pp. 162.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. n. 1355.

Solís Rodriguez, Carmelo, Luis de Morales, Fundacion Caja de Badajoz, Badajoz, 1999, pp. 206-7, n. 25.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, 'Luis de Morales. San Esteban' En:, El Divino Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 180-182 n. 49.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 948A.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1355.
Autor: Luis de Morales, llamado vulgarmente "el divino'' / 1355. Asunto: "Un alma en pena" segun los donantes, pero mas parece que representa a san Esteban u otro santo (tabla.) / dimensiones: alto ancho / Donativo de la excma sra condesa de Oñate; condesa de Villaseñor, marquesa vda. del Riscal, marquesa de San Lorenzo de Valleumbroso, duquesa vda. de Najera, marquesa de San Felices de Aragon, duques de Zaragoza, condesa de Valencia de Don Juan y condesa vda. de Crecente en nombre de sus hijas y marqueses de Peñafuerte aceptado por...

Exhibitions +

El Divino Morales
16.06.2016 - 25.09.2016

El Divino Morales
09.02.2016 - 16.05.2016

El Divino Morales
06.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

The Divine Morales
01.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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