The Birth of Saint John the Baptist
c. 1655
Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (Spanish, 1617-1682)
On View

Murillo, a native of Seville, was a generation younger than Zurbarán and Velazquez. Immensely popular throughout Spain and Europe, he was often called the "Spanish Raphael" for his sweet, idealized Madonnas and the softness and delicacy of his modelling. The characters in this painting are portrayed naturalistically yet retain the ideal, innate grace and elegance that are consistent with Murillo's figures from the late 1640s on. His modeling is solid yet handled with a painterly touch. Although this work displays a strong chiaroscuro, the general effect is one of luminosity: the darks are not so opaque, the lights are strong and the colors are saturated.


  • Artist Name: Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (Spanish, 1617-1682)
  • Title: The Birth of Saint John the Baptist
  • Date: c. 1655
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 57-3/4 x 74-1/8 in. (146.7 x 188.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1973.38.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846), probably bought in Spain ca. 1800, bequeathed to his wife Henrietta Knight, to;
Sir Henry Fitzherbert, 3rd bt. (1783-1858), and by descent to;
Sir William Fitzherbert, 4th bt. (1808-1896);
Sir Richard Fitzherbert, 5th bt. (1846-1906);
Sir Hugo Meynell Fitzherbert, 6th bt. (1872-1934);
Sir William Fitzherbert, 7th bt. (1874-1963);
Sir John Richard Frederick FitzHerbert, 8th bt. (1913-1976), sold May, 1966 to;
[Wildenstein and Co., Inc., New York], to;
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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  • Waterhouse, Ellis K., The Burlington Magazine,
  • Íñiguez, Diego Angulo, Murillo, vol. I, p. 303; vol. II, no. 336; vol. III, pls. 166-167
  • Young, Eric, The Connoisseur, No. 10, fig. 8 pp. 183-185
  • A Catalogue of some of the pictures at Tissington Hall, the Seat of Sir William Fitzherbert, Baronet, 1859, no. 9 p. 7
  • Morse, John D., Old Master Paintings in North America, 1979, p. 201
  • Sullivan, Edward J. and Nancy A. Mallory, Painting in Spain 1650-1700 from North American Collections, 1982, fig. 50
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 45
  • Kimbell Art Museum, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682): Paintings from American Collections, 2002, fig. 13 p. 23
  • Rosalie J. Slater, The Family and the Nation: Biblical Childhood, 2002, p. 71
  • Valdivieso, Enrique, Murillo: Catalogo Razonado de Pinturas, 2010, Fig. 344 p. 507
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 1003 p. 361
  • Various authors, edited by Mark Rogián, Spanish Art in America, 2016, p.192 ; p. 190 (ill.), p. 192 (ill.)
  • Jesse Locker, "La suavidad de Artemisa": reflections on the reception of Artemisia Gentileschi in Spain, 2022, Image 10 pp. 68-84, p. 78 (ill.)
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Saint Thomas of Villanueva Giving Alms to the Poor Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo 1665-1670

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