Saint Serapion was a Scottish monk who took part in the Third Crusade in 1190. He joined the Mercedarian Order in 1222 and dedicated his life to combating the enemies of Christianity. In 1240 the Moors held him as ransom for eighty-seven prisoners at Algiers. He was martyred for preaching the Gospel to Muslims and converting many to Christianity.

Although Saint Serapion was tied to a tree, brutally tortured, and decapitated, Zurbarán depicts the dead monk in an immaculate white wool habit decorated with the insignia of the order: the red and gold arms of the kingdom of Aragon surmounted by the white cross of Jerusalem. The elegant simplicity of the design, with the saint’s pose explicitly recalling Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, creates a timeless icon of martyrdom.

Zurbarán, who proudly signed and dated the work on the little paper at the right, spent his entire career in Spain. The Saint Serapion, like many of his works, was commissioned by a monastic order. In this case it was for the monastery of the Shod Mercedarians in Seville. This picture, and possibly a companion picture, hung in the Sala de Profundis, the room in which bodies of dead monks were laid before burial. Zurbarán’s intense masterpiece of humble yet noble sacrifice would have provided the spiritual inspiration for facing death bravely.

Francisco de Zurbarán
Spanish, 1598—1664
Saint Serapion, 1628
Oil on canvas
The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1951.40

From Our Collection

1594, Caravaggio 1731, Canaletto 1749, Panini 1773, Wright

Upcoming Events

Dec
19
Fri
12:00 pm Gallery Talk: Rembrandt Peale’s Portrait of Raja Ram Mohun Roy
Gallery Talk: Rembrandt Peale’s …
Dec 19 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Gallery Talk: Rembrandt Peale’s Portrait of Raja Ram Mohun Roy
Rembrandt Peale, Raja Ram Mohun Roy, 1833, Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA Gallery Talk: Rembrandt Peale’s Portrait of Raja Ram Mohun Roy: [...]
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Dec 19 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
Dec
20
Sat
1:00 pm Hartford City Ballet’s The Nutcracker Suite
Hartford City Ballet’s The Nutcr…
Dec 20 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Hartford City Ballet’s The Nutcracker Suite: The Hartford City Ballet performs its popular annual holiday classic The Nutcracker Suite. For tickets and more info visit hartfordcityballet.org [...]
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Dec 20 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
2:30 pm Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Dec 20 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Tour: Looking at Landscapes: Free with admission; meet at the Information Desk by The Museum Shop.

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