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Luis de Vargas
Painter, b. at Seville, in 1502; d. there in 1568. He has two claims upon our attention; he was not only a great painter, but was also a man of strong devotional temperament, and known as a holy man. His great desire was to use his talent for the glory of God, and it was his habit before painting one of his great altar-pieces to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. It is also stated by one of his contemporaries that he kept a coffin in his room to remind him of the approach of death, and that one of his pictures, "Christ Bearing the Cross", a fresco, painted in a street in Seville (known as the Street of Bitterness, "La Calle de la Amargura"), was so notable in the city that condemned criminals were brought there on the way to the scene of execution in order to make their devotions before it and to receive the last offices of the Church. De Vargas lived a simple and almost hermit- like life; he was quiet, mild, benevolent, disliked by many of the people of his own rank, but worshipped by the poor, to whom he was extremely generous.
He was trained in Seville, and the works of Campana greatly influenced him. He first painted on the rough canvas curtains used to cover up the pictures on the altars in Holy Week, but owing to the generosity of a friend he was able to visit Italy. There, during his stay of twenty-eight years, mainly spent in Rome, he closely studied the works of Perino del Vaga, one of Raphael's favourite pupils, and came into contact with Vasari. The first picture he painted after his return is still in Seville Cathedral; it is dated 1555, and in the records of the chapter it is said to have been discovered by Bermudez. Of his fresco work very little remains. His two greatest pictures represent the "Purification of the Virgin" and the "Temporal Generation of Our Lord," the latter being an allegorical composition showing Adam and Eve adoring the Infant Christ, Who is in the arms of the Virgin. This is the picture generally known as "La Gamba" because of the wonderful foreshortening of the leg of Adam. The Italian artist Perez de Alesio, when painting (1548) the giant figure of St. Christopher on the southern portal of the cathedral, exclaimed, that the whole of his figure was of less merit than was the leg of Adam in the "Generation" by De Vargas. De Vargas was one of the few Spanish artists who were really eminent in draughtsmanship. He painted many portraits, but none of them is of any special merit.
See the writings of BERMUDEZ on the Spanish artists, notably the Carta (Cadiz, 1806), the Cathedral Guide (Seville, 1804), and the Dictionary (6 vols., Madrid). MAXWELL, Annals of the Artists of Spain; MADRAZO in España (1878); HARTLEY, Spanish Painting (London, 1904), and various works on Murillo.
GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON