By : Tina Jeffery

Painter FRANCISCO DE ZURBARÁN 1598 – August 27, 1664

Saint Serapion or The Martyrdom of Saint Serapion is his masterpiece at all , it is painted in a 1628 oil on canvas painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Zurbarán (1598–1664). The work was commissioned by the Mercedarian Order to hang in the De Profundis (funerary chapel) hall of their monastery in Seville (now Museum of Fine Arts of Seville). Zurbarán is noted for his portrayals of penitent or martyred monks and saints. Critic Tom Lubbock used this painting to illustrate a difference in the way the martyrdom of two different saints were depicted. He contrasted the understated and calm depiction of St. Serapion's violent death, with the equally or more violent death of the Jesuit priest and martyr Saint Edmund Campion (1540–1581) who was publicly hanged, drawn and quartered in London in December 1581.

The art critic draws a comparison in the manner of depiction of Campion's death and that of Saint Serapion of Algiers (1179–1240), a Mercedarian friar who fought in the Third Crusade of 1196 and was later martyred.

Saint Serapion is depicted by Zurbarán in a quasi-crucified pose, standing with each hand bound by ropes and chain to an overhead horizontal pole. According to Michael Brenson of the New York Times, his head "has shifted from the realm of the robe to the realm of the cape, which supports the head and seems to have the potential to lift it to the sky".

The painting stops at the figure's knee level, while the strain placed on his arms is indicated by the heavy hanging folds of the drapes of the cloth hanging from left shoulder and right outstretched arm.The saint is identified by text on a small note placed to the left of his chest area.


Francisco Zurbarán is known for the forceful, realistic use of chiaroscuro in his paintings. He was devoted to an artistic expression of religion and faith; and most of his best known works are religious paintings capable of evoking intense feelings of devotion. He also created several still life paintings including the renowned work Still-life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose. Along with El Greco and Diego Velázquez, Zurbaran is one of the most celebrated artists of the Spanish Golden Age.

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