Radiating Austerity: Disproving Quiestism in Francisco de Zurbarán's Penitential Images of Saint Francis of Assisi
This study looks into the possible spiritual influences that contributed to Francisco de Zurbarán's austere depictions of Saint Francis of Assisi. Zurbarán's style was ideal for the visualization of the spiritual experience; his paintings pulsate with mysticism while conveying a meditative stillness through his technique. In the manner that El Greco has been linked to the spirituality of Saint Teresa of Ávila, Zurbarán has been linked to the heretical Quietist movement. The Quietists, active in the towns of Llerena and Seville, both places where Zurbarán lived and worked, taught that man could reach perfection and then "have no need to fast or pray, but may freely grant the body whatsoever it craves; that they are not subject to any human authority or bound by the precepts of the Church." It is more likely, however, that Zurbarán would have been influenced by the orthodox spiritual movements and/or monastic orders that at that period flourished in abundance in Spain. Since this study looks at several images of the penitent Saint Francis, it delves into Franciscan spirituality. There are two avenues to consider: first the idea of recogimiento or Recollection, a practice widely promoted by the Franciscans, and the influence specifically of the Capuchin branch of this Order. There are also potential influences from the Carthusians, whose charism emphasizes silence and austerity. The effect of other monastic orders that Zurbarán worked for will also be briefly examined.