Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window, 1655-60
49.25 x 41.125 in.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) was a Spanish Baroque painter. Born in Seville, he was the youngest of fourteen children, but his parents died when he was young and was brought up by his aunt and uncle from then on. Murillo began his art studies under the tutelage of Juan del Castillo, who first exposed him to Flemish painting. Murillo's early works are influenced by great Spanish painters of the previous years, such as Zurbarán and Ribera, and he likely encountered the work of Velázquez when he moved to Madrid in 1642. In some ways, Murillo's work became a synthesis of Flemish painting and these Spanish masters. Although best known for his religious paintings, of which there are many, Murillo also painted a number of scenes of peasants and domestic scenes. Two Women at a Window demonstrates Murillo's interest in everyday life and his excellent use of tenebrism. The black background perfectly emphasizes the presence of these women. These smiling women are likely an upper class pair (covering your mouth while laughing was considered good etiquette among Spanish aristocracy) and the standing woman may be the younger girl's chaperone. It is important to note that these figures are life size and they are very convincingly modeled. Murillo's skill is evident in the use of brushwork and shading to render these women. The use of a window opening to frame the painting and simulate a real window is a trick from Dutch painting. With the open window, life sized figures, and realistic depiction, and given the right setting, the painting could be mistaken for a real window with a real pair of laughing women––at least for a moment.