Exhibition: Ram - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2004-09-24 • 2004-11-14


12 Room

Dated and signed in 1632 by Francisco de Zurbaran (Fuente de Cantos, Badajoz, 1598 - Madrid, 1664), this work synthesises a great part of the majority of the most significant aspects of his paintings. His taste for realism within a naturalist aesthetics, the precision of his technique, the simple nature of his compositions and the gloomy light used to lend a dramatic airto his work made him one ofthe great artistic personalities of painting in Spain's Golden Age. Zurbaran was unquestionably a master of the representation of the different shades of white -not for nothing was he the painter par excellence of the white habits of the Carthusians- and of the transmission of the material qualities of objects by means of the use of a sober palette and carefully studied light, as can be seen in the animal represented in this picture.

A ram with its legs tied and placed on a grey coloured parapet stands out against a dark background thanks to a powerful light which emanates from the left. Its great realism makes one thinkthat the masterfrom Extremadura took the figure straight from its natural surroundings.
Painted by Zurbaran at a time when his style had fully matured, this theme became popular among his clients on more than one occasion as another five versions with slight variations are known of. In some, certain elements, such as the halo around the head or inscriptions of a sacred nature, give a more religious air to the work, which directly refers one to the Christian iconography of the Agnus Dei. In others, a closer connection with still life is more evident although the religious connotation is ever-present to the extent that, as in this case, there appears to be a fusion of two genres: still life and religious painting.

The work, the whereabouts of which were unknown for a time, currently forms part of the Plandiura collection in Barcelona and it has not been exhibited to the public since it was acquired in the 1830s. The deposit of this work by its owners now offers us the opportunity of presenting it after careful restoration and a detailed technical study recently carried out in our Museum. All this reinforces the interest in presenting the painting within the Guest Work Programme and it is also accompanied by other works by Zurbaran, which form part ofthe Museum's collection.