Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598-1664, Saint Francis in Meditation, circa 1635, oil on canvas, 93.3 x 68.6 cm (37 x 27 in.) Zurbarán is recognized as one of the greatest Spanish painters of the seventeenth century. He was born in the town of Fuente de Cantos, Spain and at the age of 16 was apprenticed to a little-known painter, Pedro Díaz de Villanueva. His first known independent work is The Virgin and Child with a Choir of Angels which is signed and dated 1616. Zurbarán established a studio in Seville in 1629, received a considerable number of commissions from religious orders and produced a few exquisite still life compositions. Saint Francis of Assisi was a mystic, poet and founder of the Franciscans, a mendicant order. Such was the fame of Saint Francis that he was portrayed by numerous artists including Jan van Eyck, Giovanni Bellini, El Greco and Caravaggio. Zurbarán painted approximately 34 versions of Saint Francis. In this composition, we see him deeply in prayer, in ecstasy, with his face illuminated. Zurbarán uses sombre, rich color with an intense play of light and shadow to create a highly dramatic moment of contemplation.