I had to sit down to take in the full size of this huge painting of the Virgin of the Carthusians or the Virgin of the Caves or the Virgin of Mercy, 1655, by Francisco de Zurbarán, as it measures approximately 217 x 161 centimeters (or about 85.4 x 63.4 inches) in size.
This painting was part of a series of three paintings in the sacristy of the Cartuja de las Cuevas in Seville, before finding this place on the wall of the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville.
It represents an iconography of mediaeval and Cistercian origin in which the monks are protected by the Virgin. They are sheltered under her cloak and arranged in two groups, kneeling on either side of the female figure.
The work of art is characterised by its simple composition. However, the static, symmetrically arranged figures have a great visual impact due to the individual facial features of the monks and are reminiscent of a gallery of authentic portraits. The inspiration for this work probably comes from a copperplate engraving.
The Virgin gives the first two monks, possibly Dominique Hélion and Jean de Rhodes, a special blessing for their role in spreading the rosary, symbolised by delicately scattered roses and jasmines on the ground.
Zurbarán's remarkable skill is evident in his handling of different materials, such as the monks' robes. His extraordinary sense of colour is evident in the bright composition, which is enriched by the pink tones of the tunic and the blue of the cloak and contrasts with the white clothing of the Carthusians and the dark interior of the cloak.
It is a magnificent painting and fortunately there is a bench right in front of it where you can sit and admire it.