Monday, January 26


St. Casilda Redux

As a follow-up to our posts some time ago on the work of Zurbarán, here are two more really splendid images of St. Casilda, by the artist or his studio. (There are tons more virgins and female martyrs from this school, and I'll have to post some of my better finds in the next few days). The patterned cloth and drapery on the latter is quite wonderful, if the face is a bit mannequinish. The guy must have been cranking these things out by the score... On the other hand, in an age where every church in Spain and her colonies needed scores of original paintings, and some popular saints transcended regional boundaries, it's no surprise.

Perhaps instead we should wonder at all the touches of individuality and nuance that these variant depictions have when placed side by side. The first is almost a little girl, with a delicate, angular face, her figure all bold orange-red and olive-green in the strong shadows, determined to look properly pious with her little upturned nose; the second more exotic, more idealized, with a long, questioning face turned out towards us, an otherworldly Moorish princess out of a storybook clad in rich brocade and pale lavender silk.

Some particulars on this ubiquitous saint. Apparently she is not a martyr as I thought:

Saint Casilda of Toledo (Spanish: Santa Casilda de Toledo) (d. ca. 1050 AD) is venerated as a saint of the Catholic Church. Her feast day is April 9.

According to her legend, St. Casilda was a daughter of a Muslim king of Toledo (called Almacrin or Almamun) who showed special kindness to Christian prisoners. She would carry bread hidden in her clothes to feed these prisoners.

Once, she was stopped by Muslim soldiers and asked to reveal what she was carrying in her skirt. When she began to show them, the bread turned into a bouquet of roses.

She was raised a Muslim, but when she became ill as a young woman, she refused help from the local Arab doctors and traveled to northern Iberia to partake of the healing waters of the shrine of San Vicente, near Buezo, close to Briviesca. When she was cured, she was baptized at Burgos (where she was later much venerated) and lived a life of solitude and penance not far from the miraculous spring. It is said that she lived to be a hundred years old.

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