The artwork “Saint Luke as a Painter Before Christ on the Cross” by Francisco de Zurbarán depicts Saint Luke in his traditional roles as a doctor, artist, and evangelist. The painting shows a devout painter looking at Jesus on the cross with contemplation. Zurbarán’s depiction of the crucifixion with Saint Luke draws heavily on iconography used widely in Sevillian painting and sculpture.
Sainted for his contributions to religious art, Saint Luke is traditionally considered the patron saint of artists due to an old legend claiming that he painted the Virgin’s portrait. In Zurbarán’s painting, Saint Luke is placed prominently next to Christ, subtly evoking this legend through symbolism. Interestingly enough, this depiction of Saint Luke also happens to resemble a self-portrait by Zurbarán himself.
Zurbarán was known primarily for his religious paintings and use of chiaroscuro in his work. Other works famous works from him include depictions of monks, nuns, and martyrs. Today “Saint Luke as a Painter Before Christ on the Cross” can be found at Madrid’s Prado Museum where it has been displayed since 1819.