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Saint Augustine in Ecstasy


Bartolomé Estebán Murillo

Spanish, Seville, 1617 - 1682

Direct experience of God is a common theme in 17th-century Spanish art. Here Saint Augustine, one of the Fathers of the Church, has put aside his bishop’s crozier and miter to kneel in prayer. Books, including his most famous work, The City of God, are strewn on the floor. His fervent contemplation is rewarded by the vision of a flaming heart, symbolic of religious fervor and God’s love, surrounded by a Latin inscription which translates “My heart is restless until it comes to you.” Murillo intimates intelligence, self-doubt, and humility in his portrait-like rendering of the saint. The design of the painting embodies Augustine’s description of his own earlier religious conversion as a passage from darkness into light.

Oil on canvas, 76 1/2 x 55 in. (194.3 x 139.7 cm), Gift of Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2008.51,

Provenance: Sacristy of the Convent of Saint Augustine, Seville; Marshal Jean de Dieu Soult (d. 1851), Paris; George Tomline (d. 1889), Orwell Park, Ipswich, Suffolk; Ernest George Pretyman, Esq. (d. 1931), Orwell Park, Ipswich; [Christie's, London, 28 July 1933, lot 23]; with [Schaeffer Galleries, New York until late 1930s]; purchased by Bishop Thomas E. Molloy (d. 1956), Brooklyn, New York; bequeathed to Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, 1956; Christie's, New York, May 25, 2005; Richard and Betty Hedreen, Seattle; as gift to Seattle Art Museum, October 2008 (promised gift in March 2007)

Now on view at Seattle Art Museum