The Wallace Collection

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The Charity of Saint Thomas of Villanueva
  • Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682)
  • The Charity of Saint Thomas of Villanueva
  • Spain
  • c. 1665-1670
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 150.2 x 152.6 cm
    Object size: 191 x 191 x 16 cm
  • P97
  • Great Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • St Thomas of Villanueva (1488 – 1555), an Augustinian friar who became Archbishop of Valencia from 1544, was canonized in 1658, during the Spanish Counter Reformation. He was famous for his charitable works and is shown here giving alms to the poor. Murillo painted at least five other scenes of the saint’s life. The present picture can be dated to c.1665 –70 on stylistic grounds, and is remarkable for the way in which the artist combines a monumental religious composition with an exceptional degree of naturalism. In accordance with the teachings of the Counter Reformation, the pitiful gesture of the semi-naked beggar is meant to arouse compassion in the beholder, as it does in the Saint. In turn, Saint Thomas’s act of charity is similarly calculated to inspire admiration and emulation in the viewer.

    The Genoese merchant Giovanni Bielato brought this painting, along with a number of other works by Murillo including the Wallace Collection’s Joseph and His Brethren and The Adoration of the Shepherds, to his native city in c.1670. After his death they passed to the Capuchin Order in the city, from whom they were subsequently acquired in the nineteenth century by a British dealer.

    This painting was purchased by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1846.