As we pointed out in a previous post, the Sevillian painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was in charge of decorating the Church of Santa María la Blanca located in the city of Seville. The works were commissioned by the dean of Seville's cathedral from the artist in the mid-17th century, specifically around the year 1664 or 1665.
Murillo (1617 – 1682) is one of the most prominent Spanish artists of the Baroque era, perhaps his misfortune was to coincide in life with Velázquez himself, since the shadow of the great genius eclipsed all artists of his time. However, Murillo knew how to find his own place within the Andalusian school where hisfriendly and colorful painting fit perfectly with the religious atmosphere of Andalusian society
According to the studies carried out in this regard, Justino de Neve must have been the client of the canvases that decorated the Sevillian church in which the foundation of one of the oldest basilicas in Rome, the Basilica of Santa María la Mayor, was recounted. However, the decoration of the Sevillian temple was a fact far beyond mere religiosity, becoming for Spain an almost political matter. King Felipe IV insisted that the papacy repeal the bull imposed by Urban VIII in which the concept of Immaculate was denied to the conception of Mary, maintaining for thisdifferent disputes with some of the highest canons of Rome, when Alexander VII finally repealed the bull, what had previously been a synagogue became the temple of Santa María la Blanca in commemoration of her immaculate conception.
The work we are analyzing here, The Patrician and his Wife before Pope Liberius, maintains the same half-moon format as its predecessor and, like the latter, was later modified with the addition of a golden frame that represents the plant and the elevation of the roman basilica.
In the canvas the patrician and his wife go to visit Pope Liberius to tell him about the Marian vision they have had in dreams –Mary entrusted them to build a new temple- and the Papa seems surprised since he himself had the same revelation. In the center of the composition, the patricians appear on their knees prostrate before the pope in their best clothes, which contrasts with the atmosphere of intimacy with which Murillo represented them in Sueño del Patricio. On his part, the Pope appears accompanied by two priests, one of whom adjusts his glasses in disbelief at what he hears.
In the area on the left we can see a second part of the scene, just as it happened with the previous canvas, this time the artist represents the papal entourage on the way to the mountain where the Virgin has supposedly left the map of the new basilica.