Lecture: Daily Bread: Food as Motif in Murillo's Paintings

Maggie Bell, Associate Curator, Norton Simon Museum
August 12, 2023

Food is a poignant motif in Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo’s paintings of street life in Seville, a city that experienced waves of famine in the 17th century. In these paintings, Murillo presents a romanticized vision of people experiencing poverty—particularly children, who he shows enjoying surprisingly wholesome, even luscious-looking food despite their bare surroundings. In this lecture, Bell explores Murillo’s motivations for repeatedly including food in his genre paintings. She considers the relationship of these paintings of precarity to his religious images of charity, such as the Norton Simon’s Saint Thomas of Villanueva Giving Alms to the Poor (1665–70), which depicts pious generosity as a means of remedying bodily need.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition, All Consuming: Art and the Essence of Food, on view April 14 through August 14, 2023.