Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, 1598-1664
Title: Saint Rufina
Date: 1630s
Medium: Oil on canvas
176 x 107.5 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1933
Object Number: NGI.962
DescriptionSt Rufina and her sister St Justa were potters and members of a poor Christian family in third-century Seville. When their pots were broken after they refused to sell them for use in the Temple of Venus, the sisters retaliated by destroying the statue of the goddess and consequently suffered martyrdom by strangulation. Zurbarán avoids the portrayal of such horrors, and often depicts them with the Giralda bell tower of the cathedral in Seville, as they became patron saints of the city. A later painted inscription identifies this as St Rufina, the pair of earthenware pots she holds an opportunity for Zurbarán to show his skill as a painter of carefully observed still life. The complex drapery pattern of her yellow silk dress is another recognisable feature, while a certain dainty weightlessness and her spiritual expression echo the artist’s own pious nature and contribute to the overall mood. These paintings of virgin martyrs were much in demand at the time, often painted in series, and recall the figures dressed up in street processions on saints’ days. From 1838–48, this was one of 17 virgin martyr paintings gathered for the Galerie Espagnole of King Louis-Philippe at the Louvre in Paris.

March 2016
Exhibition HistoryLeeds, 1868

Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester, 1857

Spanish Gallery, Louvre, Paris, 1838-1948

Art Treasures Centenary Exhibition, Manchester, 1857

Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

El Greco to Goya, The taste for Spanish Paintings in Britain and Ireland, The National Gallery, London, 16 September - 29 November 1981

From Titian to Delacroix: Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, Yokohama Sogo Museum of Art, 25 August 1993 - 17 October 1993; Chiba Sogo Museum of Art, 10 November 1993 - 20 December 1993; Prefectural Museum of Art, Yamaguchi, 5 January 1994 - 20 February 1994; Kobe City Museum, 25 February 1994 - 10 April 1994; Isetan Museum of Art, 14 April 1994 - 24 May 1994

European Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery, Canberra, 25 June 1994 - 3 October 1994; Art Gallery of New South Wales, 21 October 1994 - 15 January 1995
Label TextSaint Rufina and her sister, Saint Justa, were daughters of a potter in Seville. After they refused worshippers of a temple of Venus the use of their vessels for pagan rituals, the locals broke their pots. The sisters retaliated by destroying the statue of the goddess and suffered martyrdom by strangulation. The sisters later became patron saints of Seville. Celebrated for his dramatic and realistic interpretation of Spanish monastic life, Zurbarán gave Saint Rufina a delicate, serene quality that emphasises her vulnerability as well as the strength of her faith.

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