Francisco de Zurbarán: Saint Francis in Meditation (1635-1639)

(The National Gallery, London, UK)

A very impressive painting of Saint Francis of Assisi this time. Saint Francis is one of the most popular Christian saints. He is the founder of the Franciscan Order which carries his name. Francis was the son of a wealthy silk merchant but a vision inspired him to life a more simpler life. He decided to life in poverty and soon had many followers. Francis created the first Christmas crèche or Nativity Scene in 1223. A lot of stories of Saint Francis show that he had a great love for animals and the environment ('nature is the mirror of God') and showed compassion and love towards everybody, no matter of their social status. The most well-known story is the sermon to the birds. According to the tale, Francis and his companions were travelling when they say a place which was filled with birds. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds." The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Saint Francis' feast day is October 4 (declared World Animal Day in 1929 in honor of him) and he is the patron saint of animals and the environment. Zurbarán shows the humble saint while he is in deep meditation, seemingly oblivious to the world around him. This painting is from 1635-1639.