The Young Virgin

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, Fuente de Cantos 1598–1664 Madrid)
ca. 1632–33
Oil on canvas
46 x 37 in. (116.8 x 94 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1927
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 635
The subject of Zurbarán’s painting is the young Virgin Mary. According to medieval legend, she lived as a girl in the Temple in Jerusalem, where she devoted herself to praying and sewing vestments. This was a subject particularly popular in Italian and Spanish paintings of the seventeenth century, with the Virgin serving as a model of behavior for young women. The delicate modeling of the Virgin’s face and the attention to the still-life elements are characteristic of Zurbarán’s early style.
#5157. The Young Virgin
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Aureliano de Beruete, Madrid (until d. 1911); Aureliano de Beruete y Moret, Madrid (1911–d. 1922; his estate 1922–at least 1923); [Dario de Regoyos, Madrid, until 1927; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Exhibition of Spanish Paintings," November 1920–January 1921, no. 55 (lent by Aureliano de Beruete, Madrid).

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 2–28, 1951, no catalogue.

Art Gallery of Toronto. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 14–December 12, 1951, no catalogue.

City Art Museum of St. Louis. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 6–February 4, 1952, no catalogue.

Seattle Art Museum. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 1–June 30, 1952, no catalogue.

Milwaukee Auditorium. "Metropolitan Art Museum $1,000,000 Masterpiece Exhibition," March 7–14, 1953, unnumbered cat. (p. 11).

Austin, Tex. City Coliseum. "Texas Fine Arts Festival: Metropolitan Museum $1,000,000 Collection of Old Masters," April 18–26, 1953, unnum. checklist.

Madrid. Casón del Buen Retiro. "Zurbarán en el III centenario de su muerte," November 1964–February 1965, no. 22.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 55).

Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 30.

Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 30.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Zurbarán," September 22–December 13, 1987, no. 47.

Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Zurbarán," January 14–April 11, 1988, no. 47.

Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Zurbarán," May 3–July 30, 1988, no. 87.

Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 23.

Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Zurbarán: una nueva mirada," June 9–September 13, 2015, no. 25.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620," October 20, 2015–January 10, 2016, no catalogue.

José Cascales y Muñoz. Francisco de Zurbarán: Su época, su vida y sus obras. Madrid, 1911, pp. 33, 93, 171–73, ill., dates it to shortly after 1616; cites it in the collection of Aureliano de Beruete, Madrid.

August L. Mayer. Die sevillaner Malerschule. Leipzig, 1911, p. 158.

Hugo Kehrer. Francisco de Zurbarán. Munich, 1918, pp. 64–65, 146, pl. 54, dates it about 1638.

Exhibition of Spanish Paintings. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1920, pp. 44–45, no. 55; plate vol., pl. 55, as typical of Zurbarán's first manner; cites a version with Saints Anne and Joachim in the Contini Collection, Rome.

August L. Mayer. Geschichte der spanischen Malerei. Leipzig, 1922, p. 321.

Valerian von Loga. Die Malerei in Spanien vom XIV. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1923, p. 267, as an example of his early style; as with the heirs of Beruete.

August L. Mayer. "The Education of the Virgin, by Zurbarán." Burlington Magazine 44 (January–June 1924), p. 212, compares it with the "Education of the Virgin" (private collection, Italy, formerly in the Contini-Bonacossi collection) and dates the latter picture about 1630–35, considering it a later, more successful work.

Roberto Longhi and August L. Mayer, ed. The Old Spanish Masters from the Contini-Bonacossi Collection. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. Rome, 1930, p. 39.

"New Painting by Zurbarán Acquired." Bulletin of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts 27 (October 1, 1938), p. 123, mentions our painting in relation to a version of the same subject ascribed to Zurbarán, recently purchased by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 234–35, ill., calls it a work in the artist's early style on the basis of the delicate modeling of the Virgin's head and the emphatic painting of the curtain.

José Gudiol. Spanish Painting. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Toledo, 1941, p. 107, as probably painted about 1618.

Martin Soria. "Francisco de Zurbarán: A Study of His Style I." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 25 (January 1944), p. 45, fig. 7, dates it between 1630–34, noting that the emphatic drawing of the curtain agrees with other works from his second style; considers it later than the Virgin then in the Contini-Bonacossi collection, which he dates before 1629, and finds the modeling and expression closest to that in the "Immaculate Conception" (collection of the Marquis of Casa Domecq, Jerez de la Frontera) of 1632; considers the version in The Minneapolis Institute of Art too weak to be an autograph work, ascribing it to a follower.

H.P.G. Seckel. "Francisco de Zurbarán as a Painter of Still Life." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 30 (1946), pp. 292–95, figs. 13–15 (overall and details), dates it about 1632.

Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. Zurbarán. Barcelona, 1948, pp. 44, no. 43, 72, ill. opp. p. 72 (detail), dates it about 1630; cites a later version in the collection of Gómez Moreno, Madrid.

Francisco Pompey. Zurbarán: Su vida y sus obras. Madrid, 1948, pp. 45, 49–53, ill., incorrectly as in a private collection; dates it 1616.

Martin S. Soria. The Paintings of Zurbarán. London, 1953, pp. 2, 22, 148, no. 67, pl. 39, dates it about 1632 and the Contini-Bonacossi picture about 1627; notes the influence of Flemish painting in Seville, mentioning in particular an altarpiece of 1548 ascribed by Ponz to "Frans Frutet" (fig. 11); sees the source for the subject in 16th century Bolognese painting, as in Guido Reni's lost picture of the Virgin Sewing; also mentions an engraving of the subject by the Flemish artist Jerome Wierix; cites a version of this subject in the Hermitage, Leningrad, and the related "Young Virgin Asleep" in the Collegiate Church, Jerez de la Frontera.

Fabrizio Clerici. "The Grand Illusion." Art News Annual 23 (1954), p. 125, ill. p. 178.

Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 338, no. 3009.

Enriqueta Harris. "Velázquez en Roma." Archivo español de arte 31 (July–September 1958), p. 209, pl. 8 (detail).

Paul Guinard. Zurbarán et les peintres espagnols de la vie monastique. Paris, 1960, pp. 139, opp. pl. 84, p. 212, no. 23, pl. 85, dates it shortly after the "Young Virgin Asleep" (Collegiate Church, Jerez de la Frontera); calls our picture a work of rare quality, noting that there are many studio replicas, one of the best being in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; suggests our painting is the one from the collection of the Count of Montenegro, Palma de Mallorca (see Notes).

Ramón Torres Martín. Zurbarán: El pintor gótico del siglo XVII. Seville, 1963, unpaginated, no. 55, ill., cites a copy in the Renart collection, Barcelona.

Consuelo Sanz-Pastor in Exposición Zurbarán en el III centenario de su muerte. Exh. cat., Casón del Buen Retiro. [Madrid], [1964], pp. 28, 119–20, no. 22, ill. (overall and detail), dates it after the "Young Virgin" at Jerez.

José Camón Aznar. "Casi todo Zurbarán." Goya (January–April 1965), p. 320.

Julián Gállego. "El color en Zurbarán." Goya (January–April 1965), p. 298.

Diego Angulo Íñiguez. Ars hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispánico. Vol. 15, Pintura del siglo XVII. Madrid, 1971, pp. 119, 134, dates it in the 1630's.

Pierre Descargues. Art Treasures of the Hermitage. New York, [1972], p. 114.

Tiziana Frati. L'opera completa di Zurbarán. Milan, 1973, pp. 91, no. 67, 114, colorpl. XVI, dates it after 1630.

Jonathan Brown. Francisco de Zurbarán. New York, [1974], pp. 17, 94–97, colorpls. 18–19 (overall and detail), dates it about 1632–33.

Edward J. Sullivan in Master Paintings from The Hermitage and The State Russian Museum. Ed. [John Richardson] and [Eric Zafran]. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. New York, 1975, p. 60, dates it about 1632–33.

José Gudiol in Julián Gállego and José Gudiol. Zurbarán, 1598–1664. New York, 1977, pp. 39, 46–49, 51, 55–57, 59–60, 67, 94, no. 214, fig. 230 (color), catalogue it with works probably painted between 1631–40.

Marcus B. Burke in Spain and New Spain: Mexican Colonial Arts in their European Context. Exh. cat., Art Museum of South Texas. Corpus Christi, Tex., 1979, p. 25, dates it about 1632.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 313, 329, fig. 563 (color).

José de Mesa and Teresa Gisbert. Historia de la pintura cuzqueña. Lima, 1982, p. 305, cites Zurbarán's paintings of the Young Virgin Sewing as prototypes for similar paintings in the Cuzco and Potosí schools.

Enrique Valdivieso. Historia de la pintura sevillana: Siglos XIII al XX. Seville, 1986, p. 181, dates it to the 1630's; notes the "application of geometric principles" and comments on its "rigorous symmetry".

Jeannine Baticle et. al. Zurbarán. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1987, pp. 255–58, 260, 287, no. 47, ill. (color), dates it about 1635–40, but notes that the Virgin bears a resemblance to the child Mary in the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception of 1656 (Plácido Arango collection, cat. no. 64); suggests that the model for the Immaculate Conception may have been the artist's daughter Manuela, born about 1650.

Santiago Alcolea. Zurbarán. Barcelona, 1989, p. 16, colorpl. 55, dates it about 1631–40; relates it to the Virgin previously in the Contini-Bonacossi Collection, Florence [private collection, Spain].

Norman Bryson. Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting. Cambridge, Mass., 1990, pp. 75–76, ill. (overall and detail).

Deborah Krohn et al. in From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1992, p. 307, no. 23, ill. (color) [catalogue section unpaginated], dates it about 1635–40.

John Moffitt. "Mary as a "Prophetic Seamstress" in Siglo de Oro Sevillian Painting." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 54 (1993), pp. 147–50, 153, 155–56, fig. 3, sees the objects in the picture as "symbolically charged attributes" and challenges Brown's (see Ref. Brown 1974) view that they are no more than "stage props"; suggests the picture is more appropriately called "The Praying Virgin-Annunciate in Nazareth as a Sadly Prophetic Seamstress".

Rocío Izquierdo in Da Velázquez a Murillo: Il "siglo de oro" in Andalusia. Ed. Arsenio Moreno Mendoza. Exh. cat.Milan, 1993, p. 92, citing Guinard (see Ref. Guinard 1960), finds it similar in iconography to the "Young Virgin in Prayer" (Instituto Gómez-Moreno, Granada).

María Luisa Caturla. Francisco de Zurbarán. Paris, 1994, pp. 100, 108 n. 102.

Julián Gállego. Visión y símbolos en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro. 4th ed. Madrid, 1996, p. 214.

Claudie Ressort in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 33, New York, 1996, p. 730.

Enrique Valdivieso. Zurbaran: IV centenario. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. Seville, 1998, pp. 174–75, no. 54, ill. (color), dates it about 1640–45.

Benito Navarrete Prieto et. al. Zurbarán y su obrador. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia. Valencia, 1998, pp. 170, 172–74, no. 33, ill. (color).

Benito Navarrete Prieto in Zurbarán al Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya. Barcelona, 1998, pp. 26, 136, 239, cites a version in a private collection.

Enrique Valdivieso. "Zurbarán: Problèmes de chronologie et de style." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 132 (1998), p. 191.

Arsenio Moreno. Zurbarán. Madrid, 1998, p. 45.

Benito Navarrete Prieto. Zurbarán ante su centenario [1598–1998]. Ed. Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Valladolid, 1998, pp. 118–19, ill., cites a workshop copy in a private collection, Barcelona.

Francisco J. Cornejo. "Zurbarán y el teatro sevillano de su época." Actas del Simposium Internacional, Zurbarán y su época: Fuente de Cantos, Llerena, Guadalupe. Mérida, 1998, pp. 102–3, ill.

Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598–1664. Exh. cat.Granada, 1999, pp. 163–64, 168, ill. (color).

Odile Delenda in Zurbarán: La obra final: 1650–1664. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, 2000, pp. 24–25, 111, ill. (color), dates it about 1640–45.

Femke Speelberg. "Fashion & Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 73 (Fall 2015), p. 41, fig. 50 (color).

Alfonso Rodríguez G. de Ceballos in Zurbarán. Exh. cat., Museum Kunstpalast. Düsseldorf, 2015, pp. 49–50, fig. 4 (color).

Almudena Ros de Barbero in Zurbarán: A New Perspective. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. [Madrid], [2015], pp. 110, 192, no. 25, ill. pp. 14, 111 (color, overall and detail).

According to the Protoevangelium of James (7:1–8:1), the Virgin was brought to the Temple at the age of three and reared there. Pseudo-Matthew, in another apocryphal text elaborated on this story, adding that, "she applied herself so to working the wool, and even what aged women could not contrive to do she at such a tender age succeeded in" (see Baticle 1987, p. 256). The present picture is one of three variants ascribed to Zurbarán depicting the young Virgin who has interrupted her sewing to pray. A painting in a private collection, Florence, showing the Virgin in a very similar attitude, includes the figures of Joachim and Anna, and is usually dated somewhat earlier than ours. A third picture (Hermitage, St. Petersburg) which is compositionally quite different, shows a three-quarter view of the child Mary seated, also at prayer with sewing in her lap. This picture, which does not include the numerous still-life elements of the other two versions, is most often considered the latest of the three. A painting formerly in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (and coll. José de Madrazo in 1856, see cat. Madrazo, 1856, no. 447), and a related picture sold at Christie's, London, June 26, 1970, lot 62, appear to be weak copies of our picture. Neither painting includes the small table at the Virgin's left. What may be a third copy of our composition is mentioned in Torres Martín 1963, in the Renart collection, Barcelona. The painting of the Young Virgin in the collection of the Count of Montenegro, Palma de Mallorca, in 1845 (see J.M. Bover, Noticia . . . de los museos del . . . Cardenal Despuig existentes en Mallorca, 1845, p. 151, no. 44) may be our picture, but could also be the painting formerly in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.