The Creation of an Artist

September 9, 2010 at 1:15 am | Posted in Children's Stories, Moments from History | Leave a comment

Author: Guan Zhijiang

[] The famous Spanish artist, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), often found a  nice unfinished sketch on his student’s canvas that demonstrated great talent. However, it was always done at night and he could not figure out who did it.

One morning, his students came in one after the other and all gathered around in front of one easel. Everyone admired the painting on the canvas. It turned out to be an unfinished portrait of the Virgin Mary. It was only the head but consisted of graceful lines, a clear outline, and many unique tones and strokes. Murillo was astonished by this painting. But no one knew who did it. Murillo sighed and exclaimed, “One day he will become our master. He turned around and saw a trembling young slave named Sebastian. He said, “Sebastian, who comes here at night?”

“Sir, only me and no one else.”

“Good, you need to be careful. If this mysterious creator comes tonight and you don’t tell me, you will be flogged 30 times.”

Sebastian de Herrera Barnuevobut quietly bent his knees and left.

That night, Sebastian made his bed in front of that easel and slept soundly until the 3 am bell rang. He suddenly jumped out of his bed and talked to himself, “This three hours is mine and the rest of time belongs to my teacher.”  He took the brush and sat in front of the easel. He wanted to erase the picture from the previous night. But the moment the brush was about to touch the painting, he said, “Oh, no, I can’t! Let me finish this one!”

He entered a different realm very quickly. He dabbed at the canvas here, added a stroke there, adjusted the colors, and so on. Three hours disappeared very quickly. A little light noise startled Sebastian. He lifted his head up. Murillo and all the students were all quietly standing around him. The morning sun just came through the window and the candle was still burning.

It was daybreak and Sebastian had turned into a slave again. Everyone was looking at him with enthusiasm. He sadly lowered his head with eyes downcast.

“Who is your teacher, Sebastian?”

“You, Sir.”

“I mean your art teacher.”

“You, Sir.”

“But I have never taught you.”

“But you have taught all these students. I have listened.”

“Oh, I understand. Your work is outstanding.”

Murillo turned around and asked his students, “Should we punish him or reward him?”

The students answered quickly, “Reward, Sir!”

“What should we reward him with?”

Some suggested new clothes, some said paint brushes, but none of those moved Sebastian. One student said, “Our teacher is in a great mood today. Sebastian, ask for your freedom.”

Sebastian looked at Murillo’s face, “Sir, please give my father his freedom.”

Murillo was very moved. He looked at Sebastian caringly and said, “Your brush shows me that you have extraordinary talent. Your request shows me that you are very kind. From now on, you are no longer a slave. I will adopt you as my son, is that OK?  I am so lucky and I am about to create a great artist!”

Even today, we are still able to see many wonderful paintings by Murillo and Sebastian in the Spanish collections.

Translated from:


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