Overview

Few images of saints show women as gorgeously attired as Francisco de Zurbarán's. His Saint Lucy portrays the young martyr as a contemporary woman of Seville. Bejeweled and carefully coiffed, she presents her startling attribute, a pair of naturalistically painted eyeballs on a pewter dish.

Multiple versions of the legend of Saint Lucy, the daughter of an aristocratic family in fourth-century Syracuse, arose during the Counter-Reformation. One popular interpretation, inspired by her unusual attribute, maintained that Lucy, determined to dedicate her life to Christ, had plucked out her eyes and sent them to a tenacious suitor after he insisted that their beauty allowed him no peace. Astounded by her devotion to her faith, the admirer converted to Christianity, and Lucy, the legend continues, later found her eyesight miraculously restored one day during prayer. It is possible that the young saint's connection with eyes originated in the Latin source for her name, Lux or "light," which is inextricably linked with vision.

The success of Zurbarán's many images of virgin martyrs derived not only from their inherently pleasing theme -- beautiful, splendidly dressed women -- but also from the artist's gifts as a colorist and his talent for combining the spiritual and material.

Inscription

upper left: S.LVCIA

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Art market, Paris, 1927-1928;[1] Paul Somazzi, Izmir, Turkey;[2] sold 1930 or after through Lily Buser, Philadelphia, to (Ehrich Galleries, New York);[3] sold February 1934 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York;[4] gift to NGA 1943.

Exhibition History

1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.

Bibliography

1927
Mayer, August S. "Unbekannte Werke Zurbarans." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 56 (1927-1928): 289-292, repro. 292.
1943
Washington Times-Herald 18 July 1943:C-10
1944
Soria, Martin S. "Francisco de Zurbarán: A Study of His Style." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 86 (1944): 33-48, 153-174, especially 167.
1945
Cook 1945, 82-83, fig. 10.
1951
Soria, Martin S. "Two Early Paintings by Zurbarán." The Art Quarterly 14 (1951): 256-260, figs. 1, 3.
1953
Soria, Martin S. The Paintings of Zurbarán. London, 1953: 9, 23, 133, no. 2, pl. 2.
1960
Evans, Grose. Spanish Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Ten in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 24, color repro.
1960
Guinard, Paul. Zurbarán et les peintres espagnols de la vie monastique. Paris, 1960: 240, no. 272, repro.
1965
Paintings other than French in the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 10, repro., as Santa Lucia.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 141.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 128, repro.
1973
Gregori, Mina, and Tiziana Frati. L'opera completa di Zurbarán. Milan, 1973: 99, no. 168, pl. 26.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 380, repro.
1977
Gudiol y Ricart, José, and Julián Gállego. Zurbarán 1598-1664. London, 1977: 78, no. 51, fig. 58.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 247, no. 313, color repro., as Santa Lucia.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 444, repro.
1990
Brown, Jonathan, and Richard G. Mann. Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1990: 134-136, color repro. 135.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 84, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 171, no. 132, color repro.

Technical Summary

The painting is on a rather coarse, fairly open-weave fabric and is lined with an aqueous adhesive to fabric. The tacking margins have been cut off, and there is cusping of the fabric support on the right and bottom edges. There is a white ground layer over which an oil-type paint is applied wet into dry. It is relatively thinly applied with a certain amount of impasto in the flowers and some highlights. The original fabric is highly dessicated, and the condition of the paint layer suggests that there was once severe flaking overall. The existing losses are small but numerous, and many are filled with inpainting and discolored varnish. Also, the paint surface is abraded throughout and covered with a thick, discolored varnish. Discolored residues of old varnish which appear in the green drapery are particularly disfiguring.

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