My article “Two painters, two styles, one city: Seville takes a lead in cosmopolitan 17th-century art” appears in National Catholic Reporter.
Here’s the lede:
Visitors to Santa María de la Sede, Seville’s cathedral and the world’s third largest church, need to peer over the baptismal font from behind a stanchion to glimpse Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s dimly lit “Vision of St. Anthony of Padua” (1656).
The painting still bears the scars of a late 1874 theft, in which thieves cut off the bottom right corner of the canvas — where St. Anthony kneels — and sold it. About a year later, an antique dealer in New York recognized the re-stretched canvas, purchased it and turned it over to the Spanish consulate. It returned to Seville after Prado Museum conservators restored it.
“That story needed to have this end, because San Antonio is the one who finds everything that we lose,” said guide Elisa Simon, on a tour of the cathedral. “If you lose something, you don’t have to search for it. You pray to San Antonio, and it comes back.”
Standing before the painting, Simon calls attention to the obvious elements: the saint’s attributes (a lily vase, open Bible and the Christ Child), as well as the flying putti circumscribed by clouds. But she also notes a less apparent element: the interior design.
“This is the typical floor that we have in Seville,” Simon said. “It is a convention.”