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Saint Augustine in Ecstasy
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More about Saint Augustine in Ecstasy

dromero's picture

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Esteban Murillo was known not only for his religious-themed paintings, but also for his renditions of beggars, street urchins and girls selling flowers; this would prove to be a reason for his decrease in popularity in the late 19th century.

In his day, back in 17th century Spain, he was an incredibly popular painter, with his work being influenced by other Spanish painters, notably Diego Velazquez and Francisco de Zurbarán. However, people’s tastes had changed a bit by the 19th century; some of Murillo’s works were then considered “kitschy” or overly sentimental. However, tastes once again changed in the 20th century and he is now considered one of the masters of Spanish art.

His painting, Saint Augustine in Ecstasy, on display at the Seattle Art Museum, depicts a humbled saint (assuming there is such a thing), who has put aside all of his accessories, and even the book he wrote, "The City of God," lays on the floor. In a religious sense, the term “ecstasy” in the title means possibly seeing visions and/or feeling a sense of euphoria while communing with a higher power. It looks like Saint Augustine here has that part nailed; he can clearly see that flaming heart (or sacred heart) hovering above him, which usually means his devoutness has been recognized by the higher power he’s been trying to reach.

We don’t know if he can see the words that surround the heart, but for the sake of argument, since he’s having visions anyway, let’s assume he can see them; these translate to “My heart is restless until it comes to you.” These could be his words being projected out by Saint Augustine, or they could be words he is receiving; either way, seeing these visions would be quite an intense experience for anyone. As a side note, Augustine is also one of several patron saints of brewers and brew masters, so maybe those visions came after a few too many cold ones.  To paraphrase: “I’ll have what he’s having!”

Sources

Sources

  1. “5 Patron Saints of Beer.” Catholic Exchange, June 26, 2014. https://catholicexchange.com/5-patron-saints-beer.
  2. “Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Encyclopedia Volume - Catholic Encyclopedia.” Catholic Online. Accessed September 26, 2019. https://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=8274.
  3. “Murillo Biography, Life & Quotes.” The Art Story. Accessed September 26, 2019. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/murillo-bartolome-esteban/life-and-le....
  4. Sainsbury, Brendan. “Why Baroque Master Bartolomé Murillo Was (Almost) Written Out of History.” Artsy, February 16, 2018. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-murillo-spent-200-years-sp....