Francisco de Zurbarán’s 1638 painting, “The Savior Blessing,” is a significant example of his religious artwork. Known for his detailed depictions of monks, nuns, and martyrs, as well as still-lifes, Zurbarán’s personal style was influenced by the realism of Caravaggio and his followers. The painting depicts Saint Francis wearing the brown habit typical of the Franciscan Order with his hood-covered head looking down at a human skull which he holds in front of him.
This painting is recognized as the only known example of Zurbarán’s depiction of Jesus Christ as savior. It showcases Saint Francis holding a skull which symbolizes death and mortality in contrast to Christ who represents eternal life. The use of light and shadow creates a sense of drama and emotion evoking reflection on one’s own mortality.
Zurbarán helped define Seville’s Golden Age with most pictures being painted for Spanish religious orders.Thus, this famous work conveys its intended message through its striking visual aspects while also reflecting Zurbarán’s artistic realism that made him prominent during that era.