The study begun in 2011 by Manuela Mena demonstrates the unique nature of Murillo’s style and models. His technical skill, the beauty of his strokes, the subtlety of his washes and his exceptional precision in black pencil and red chalk are the finest seen in 17th century Spanish drawing.
For the occasion of the exhibition held in the hall at the Botín Foundation in 2012, an exceptional and numerous collection of drawings by the artist was assembled, revealing aspects of Murillo’s works that helped to discern the lost line of their provenance as well as the manifest division between independent drawings and preparatory ideas for drawings that belonged to an album and should be classified as copies or replicas of his compositions. It became necessary to conduct an exhaustive review of all known drawings, a task which was laborious, arduous and difficult as it entailed a complete change with respect to what had been asserted before that time.
Despite the fact that Murillo drew frequently and was fully aware of drawing’s essential role in pictorial creation, just over one hundred of his drawings have reached our times. Although their number is small as a proportion of the artist’s oeuvre as a whole, they highlight his exceptional skill in the medium and have unique value for stylistic study of the master artist, identification of authorship and establishment of a timeline for his work.