Simple beauty and the wonder it inspires best describe A Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate (cover) by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664). This small gem of Spanish Golden Age painting shines, especially when compared with the often oversized paintings of the Immaculate Conception, the Crucifixion, and saints for which Zurbarán is so famous. Its modest size and subtle energy underscore the talent of one of Seville's greatest artists who painted during the Siglo de Oro. Seville, capital city of Andalucía, maintained its cultural superiority over other Spanish cities of the time, producing artists such as Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (JAMA covers, January 28, 2009, and November 6, 2002), Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Juan de Valdés Leal, and Francisco Herrera the Younger, in addition to Zurbarán, who had adopted Seville as his hometown. Born in Fuente de Cantos, Estremadura, in the western part of Spain near the former province of what is now Portugal, Zurbarán later spent time in the small market town of Llerena before moving his second wife Beatriz and their family to Seville. Their relocation, at the request of the Seville City Council, occurred in 1629. The banks of Seville's Guadalquivir River held landmarks such as the Torre de Oro and were also home to a busy commercial shipping marina. Today's Seville is landlocked, served by the port of Cádiz, but the Torre de Oro and other symbols still stand. La Giralda, the former ninth-century minaret, remains, towering over the cathedral to which it is attached. One can walk in Zurbarán's footsteps and imagine his Seville as it was, the whitewashed walls of the Santa Cruz quarter, blooming bright bougainvillea blossoms, and the evanescent scent of citrus flower wafting through the winding streets.
Torpy JM. A Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate. JAMA. 2009;301(12):1205. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.222