Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the great 17th century Spanish artist, has been described as "wholly a religious painter." On today's feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will look at Murillo's "Assumption" painting as photographed in its locked sacristy in Guadalajara, Mexico.
One version of Murillo's "Assumption" painting is on display at the Hermitage state museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Another is on permanent loan from the Marists to the Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine in Orlando, Florida, in the United States.
Still another version of Murillo's "Assumption" painting is to be found in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara -- the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady. However, it is not in the nave or even the sanctuary, but indeed in the sacristy. Years ago, there apparently were hours when the general public could enter the sacristy to see the painting and its surrounding art. Today it is a special-request situation to view the famous painting.
During this writer's honeymoon (a great excuse to attain a favor of someone) in Jalisco in May 2011 broken Spanish learned in high school and college, decent attire (including a mantilla on my wife) and a sincere plea were helpful in convincing rectory staff to take us into the sacristy. It was a stunning room -- larger than some entire chapels, and full of gorgeous old vestments, paintings, statues, vases and wooden furniture. The staff made sure we understood a flash was not allowed. After enjoying the "Assumption" for a few moments, we snapped a photo as best we could of a painting that few people have ever seen:
The interior is rich in decorations and paintings. Here hangs the famous "Assumption" by Murillo. It was sent by King Carlos IV from Spain to the Cathedral at Guadalajara, in grateful acknowledgment of a large sum of money sent to Spain when that country was invaded by Napoleon. The "Assumption" is a superb example of Murillo.
A prominent Mexican critic, Señor Eduardo Gibbon, in an intimate study of the picture has instituted some comparisons with Murillo's famous painting in the Louvre [N.B. the Immaculate Conception. KJW]. He prounounces its inspirations better and more spiritual than that of the Louvre painting, and its drawings also superior. In color he finds it as vigorous and living, with lights and shadows more impressive: the type of the Virgin ideally inspired, while that of the Louvre he deems too Spanish in features. The group of cherubs in the foreground, while less in number, he calls equal in celestial beauty; the same figures are represented in both pictures; those of the Louvre absorbed in adoration and those in the Guadalajara canvas hailing the sublime mother with lilies, roses and palms. In general tone of composition, Señor Gibbon regards the Guadalajara painting as more intricate, more allegorical and more important than that of the Louvre.
The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Pius XII