Francisco de Zurbaran (Fuentes de Cantos, 1598 - Madrid, 1664), Immaculate Conception, about 1635 - oil on canvas, - Sequence, Diocesan Museum.
The great Spanish painter, who carried out his activity mainly in Seville, interprets the subject of the Immaculate Conception according to classical canons: Mary, very young represented, is praying, with her hands joined, wearing a long white tunic and the cloak, of an intense blue, which is spread out to form a perfectly balanced pyramidal volume. Beautiful and precious is the jewel placed on the neckline of the dress, which reproduces the monogram (an A intersected to an M) of the angelic greeting: “Ave, Maria” ("Hail, Mary").
The Virgin Mary is placed in heaven and all around there are angels' heads: under the folds of her garment and mantle, between the clouds of heaven, around Mary's head, to form a second halo around the one created by the twelve stars. In the sky, among the openings of the clouds, there are some elements symbolically connected to the Marian praises: we recognize on the right the "morning star" and the "mirror of divine holiness", on the left the "door of heaven" and the "staircase of God".
Zurbaran dealt with the theme of the Immaculate Conception in at least ten works known to us. What we have chosen for our reflection has a peculiarity that is worth to highlight. If we look at the lower part of the painting, we see a landscape. The left side is a faithful reproduction of Seville in the seventeenth century: the Giralda stands out, the high bell tower of the cathedral (with its 104.1 meters is one of the highest in Spain), but also the "Golden Tower", a refined military construction erected during the Arab domination to control the accesses of the city from the river Gualdalquivir. The right side, on the other hand, presents us with a lush garden rich in plants, flowers and water, probably with reference to the beautiful gardens of the royal Alcazar, which over the centuries were enlarged and embellished to make them one of the most original manifestations of a purely Hispanic style, the mudejar, an expression of Muslim art adapted to the Christian world.
Certainly, both the city and the garden can in turn be interpreted as symbols of Mary, and by the Fathers of the Church it was defined as "City of God","Closed Garden" or "Sealed Source". But I also like to think that this representation of Mary, pure and beautiful, shows her as a bridge between God (the sky inhabited by angels) and humanity (Seville, the city, the garden), between heaven and earth, between the Creator and our creatures.
Mary, help of Christians, pray for us!