Seville's most popular painter in the later 17th century was Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

While Murillo is well known for works with religious themes, he also produced a number of genre paintings of figures from contemporary life engaged in ordinary pursuits. These pictures often possess a wistful charm; _Two Women at a Window_ is a striking example. A standing woman attempts to hide a smile with her shawl as she peeks from behind a partially opened shutter, while a younger woman leans on the windowsill, gazing out at the viewer with amusement. The difference in their ages might indicate a chaperone and her charge, a familiar duo in upper-class Spanish households. Covering one's smile or laugh was considered good etiquette among the aristocracy.

The convincingly modeled, life-size figures, framed within an illusionistically painted window, derive from Dutch paintings that were meant to fool the eye.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication _Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries_, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/spanish-painting-15th-19th-centuries.pdf


  • Title: Two Women at a Window
  • Creator: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
  • Date Created: c. 1655/1660
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 125.1 x 104.5 cm (49 1/4 x 41 1/8 in.) framed: 182.3 x 160.3 cm (71 3/4 x 63 1/8 in.)
  • Provenance: Pedro Francisco Luján y Góngora, Duque de Almodóvar del Rio, Madrid;[1] his heirs; sold 1823 to William A'Court, later 1st baron Heytesbury [1779-1860], Heytesbury, Wiltshire;[2] by descent to his eldest son, William Henry Ashe, 2nd baron Heytesbury [1809-1891]; by descent to his grandson, William Frederick Ashe, 3rd baron Heytesbury [1862-1903]; sold 1894 to (Stephen T. Gooden, London);[3] purchased 3 December 1894 by Peter A. B. Widener [1834-1915], Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;[4] inheritance from the Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener [1860-1943], Elkins Park.[5] [1] For this provenance see William Stirling-Maxwell, _Annals of the Artists of Spain_, 3 vols., London, 1848: 2:920 n. 2, who presumably had the information from Baron Heytesbury (d. 30 May 1860). Heytesbury was ambassador extraordinary in Madrid in 1822-1823. Pedro Francisco Luján y Góngora, Duke of Almodóvar del Rio (1728-1794) was a Spanish diplomat and man of letters. The ownership is established by the inscription on an undated print after the painting by Joaquín Ballester, which employs the present tense: "Quadro original de Bartolomé Murillo que posee el Excmo. Sr. Duque de Almodóvar," reproduced in Diego Angulo Iñiguez, "Quelques tableaux de Murillo. Les femmes a la fenêtre de Murillo, de la Galerie Nationale de Washington," _Evolution générale et developpements regionaux en histoire de l'art_, Budapest, 1972: fig. 2. Gustav F. Waagen, _Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain_, 3 vols. and supplement, London, 1857: 389, mistakenly gives the provenance as the family of the count of Altamira. Duncan Kinkead, "The Picture Collection of Don Nicolas Omazur," _Burlington Magazine_ 128 (1986): 353, posits that the picture is identical to one in the 1703 inventory of the Sevillian painter, Matías Arteaga. However, the entry does not give the name of the artist and mentions only a single woman--"Un lienzo de vara y medio de alto de una mujer asomada a ventana" ("A canvas is a vara and a half high of a woman looking out of a window"). In a 7 September 1986 letter to unknown recipient, Professor Kinkead states that the same picture is mentioned in Arteaga's _capital_ (possessions of husband at marriage) of 1680, where the estimated value, in his opinion, "is simply too low for it to have been an original by Murillo." [2] _Burke's Peerage_, London, 1967: 1247-1248. [3] Gooden's name is found in the manuscript copy of the Widener catalogue. [4] Records from Edith Standen's (Widener's secretary) Lynnewood Hall card file, NGA curatorial files. [5] _Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener_ (1923), n.p.
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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