Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Saint Apollonia, Louvre
Today, I am going with my friends Nadia and Julianna to see an exhibition of the great Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga’s work at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York City. For the occasion, I thought I’d post one of the Spanish paintings I saw when I went to the Louvre this summer. This painting by Francisco de Zurbarán—known as the Spanish Caravaggio—caught my eye because of the subject’s gorgeous, brightly colored, full-skirted taffeta gown and velvet cloak. The outfit, indeed, looks very Balenciaga, who drew heavily on his Spanish heritage for his rather radical designs. The green-and-carnation-pink color combination recalls a recent ballgown from Oscar de la Renta, which he designed as an homage to the great couturier.
De Zurbarán’s bright colors belie the painting’s more sinister details: His portrayal of Saint Apollonia includes, as the Louvre states, “the instrument of her torture.” The saint clutches a tooth gripped by a pair of pliers in her right hand—eek.