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The Marriage of the Virgin
  • Date: c. 1670
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on mahogany panel
  • Object size: 106 x 90 x 13 cm
  • Image size: 76.2 x 56.5 cm
  • Inv: P14
  • Location: Great Gallery
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Further Reading
  • The subject of this painting has no Biblical source but is found in the Golden Legend, a hagiography of saints, and in the Apocryphal New Testament. When Mary was to be married, suitors were called to the Temple, and Joseph was chosen to be her husband by a sign from God. Murillo depicts the moment when the Virgin takes Joseph's hand, as their marriage is blessed by Zacharias, the high priest of the temple of Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends on the couple, as Joseph’s rod symbolically bursts into flower, as ordained by God. Murillo included a group of unsuccessful suitors to the right, one of whom breaks his rod in anger.

    This painting stands out for its brilliant colour range, including pairings of warm and cool colours. Widely acknowledged as one of Murillo’s masterpieces, it was recorded in the Spanish Royal Collection at Madrid's Royal Palace in 1772. It is painted on mahogany, a tropical hardwood native to Central and South America and a very precious material in seventeenth-century Europe.

    The 4th Marquess of Hertford bought the painting in 1848 at the Laneuville sale in Paris for 25,000 francs.