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The Miracle of the Waters, Rafael Esteve y Vilella

The Miracle of the Waters, Rafael Esteve y Vilella

Inv. No. CE4/04086

This print was made with the intaglio technique, i.e. working a copper plate with a burin. It reproduces the painting by Murillo (1617-1682) 'Moises ante la roca de Horeb', in the Hospital de la Caridad, Seville. The painting was drawn and engraved by Rafael Esteve Vilella. The same painting was then printed by Sauvé and published by Rittner & Goupil, both located in Paris. It was completed in 1839.

Murillo’s painting forms part of a decorative set made for the guild of the Hermandad de la Caridad de Sevilla between 1658 and 1670. The two most important compositions in this set are 'Moises ante la roca de Horeb' and 'La multiplicación de los panes y los peces'. The painting represents the episode in which Moses was guiding his people, who were dying of thirst, through the desert. He struck the ‘Rock of Horeb’ and at the blow of his miraculous staff, the water rushed out. Moses puts his hands together and gives thanks to God. To his left is his brother Aaron. Surrounding them, a crowd of people rush to drink the running water.

Rafael Esteve Vilella (1772-1847) was a Valencian engraver, who studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos and subsequently at the Academia madrilène. Under the reign of King Charles IV of Spain, Esteve contributed works to the Real Calcografía. In 1799, he was appointed the court engraver.

The completion of the engraving, ‘El milagro de las aguas’, took Esteve 11 years. It is considered an intaglio masterpiece of 19th century Spain and contributed significantly to Murillo’s fame as a painter. He was internationally successful in England and in France, obtaining a 1st class gold medal from King Louis Phillippe of France in the Paris Art Exposition of 1839.

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