Fermín Cabanillas I Seville, (EFE).- Santa Catalina and San Pedro, the two faces of the destiny of Murillo’s works. “Look, it seems that Murillo put a light bulb on his right side…”. Sandra, a woman from Seville who is around 60 years old, cannot help but be moved when she sees paintings like ‘Santa Catalina de Alejandría’. Today she has enjoyed it for the first time, without knowing that she is one of the first people who can admire it after her protection as BIC by the Junta de Andalucía.
It is a marvelous painting, executed around 1652-1657 for the Sevillian parish of the same name and acquired by the Andalusian Government in June 2022 from the Focus Abengoa Foundation for its museographic collection, and which can be enjoyed in Room V from the Seville Museum of Fine Arts, the second Spanish art gallery after Madrid’s El Prado.
Now, it has received protection as an Asset of Cultural Interest from the Governing Council of the Junta in the ‘Furniture’ category, and once this issue has been resolved, that of protecting this work of art, the Junta’s energies are concentrated on another work of the Sevillian painter.
Specifically in ‘San Pedro Penitente de los Venerables’, owned by Abengoa’s parent company, dissolved at the end of July, and which will go up for auction starting this Friday, February 24.
Valuation of 8 million euros
The idea of the Junta de Andalucía, obviously, is to get hold of the painting, in the same way that it acquired the one in Santa Catalina in 2022, and it is an open secret that it is going to bid at the auction, because it also has the right of first refusal about the work, but the Ministry of Culture does not want to give “clues” so that the other candidates to keep the work in the liquidation of Abengoa’s assets do not have a relative advantage.
In addition, it is clarified that “it is not that the auction is going to start and end next Thursday, but that it is a process that can last for months, and above all you have to be very cautious,” say the same sources.
It is not a physical auction, with the judge’s gavel closing the bids after counting 1, 2 and 3…, but a virtual tour of offers while the painting is still on display and can be visited at the Focus Foundation, in the heart of the neighborhood Seville from Santa Cruz.
It is true that the investment to keep one of Murillo’s works is not within everyone’s reach, because most likely the starting price will be eight million euros, which is what corresponds to the last appraisal made. .
And it is also true that as it is an Asset of Cultural Interest it cannot leave Spanish soil, but as it is an open auction any person, entity or company can try to keep it, so the Andalusian Government will have to be careful to avoid it.
Looting of the Napoleonic invasion
Meanwhile, at the Museum of Fine Arts, more protected than ever, hundreds of people observe Santa Catalina this Thursday, because the incipient spring is attracting many people to visit the museum, and they mix with the visits of up to three institutes At the same time, they come to admire what the Board defines as a work that summarizes “a creation of accredited and relevant cultural values, which allow it to be recognized as part of the Andalusian cultural heritage.”
The painting remained in Seville until 1810, when it was looted during the Napoleonic invasion, and it represents the saint in half-length and in the foreground, dressed in sumptuous clothing and carrying in her hands the attributes that characterize her, such as the sword and the palm of martyrdom, and Murillo, “using a resource of great potentiality, shows the figure that emerges illuminated on a neutral and dark background, directing its gaze fixedly at the viewer.”
For this reason, as Sandra said at the beginning, it seems that the painter had used artificial light to illuminate it only from one of its sides, and achieve an effect only within the reach of a few brushes in the world and in history.
To get Santa Catalina to reach Fine Arts, the Board won an auction that closed at 1,089,000 euros, and now everything is focused on knowing what will happen from Friday, and if it will be possible to get another of Murillo’s great works pass into the hands of all Andalusians with all those of the Law, and can be exhibited in the same museum along with their great creations. EFE