The Battle between Christians and Moors at El Sotillo

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, Fuente de Cantos 1598–1664 Madrid)

ca. 1637–39
Oil on canvas
Arched top, 131 7/8 x 75 1/4 in. (335 x 191.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Kretschmar Fund, 1920
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    In 1370 the Spanish forces were saved from a night ambush when a miraculous light revealed the hidden Moorish troops. This picture depicting the miraculous event was painted for the apse of the Carthusian monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Defensión in Jerez de la Frontera. It formed part of a large, three-tiered altarpiece which comprised fourteen paintings and additional sculptures. For a reconstruction, see metmuseum.org/collections.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Defensión, Jerez de la Frontera (by about 1640–1813); Musée Napoléon, Paris (from 1813; inv. no. 349; restored to Spain after 1814); Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (by 1818–23; inv. 1818, no. 81); Jerez de la Frontera, (by 1823– at least 1835/37; inventory 1835; sold by José Cuesta of Seville to Baron Isidore Taylor for King Louis Philippe, June 26, 1837, for 40,000 reales); Louis Philippe, King of France, Paris (1838–d. 1850; exhibited in his Galerie Espagnole, Musée du Louvre, 1838–48, nos. 355/365; his estate, 1850–53; his sale, Christie's, London, May 20, 1853, no. 405, for £160 to Farrer for Labouchère); Henry Labouchère, 1st Baron Taunton, Stoke (near Windsor) (1853–d. 1869); his daughter, Mary Dorothy Labouchère (later Mrs. Edward James Stanley), Quantock Lodge, Bridgewater, Somerset, and Cross Hall, Lancashire (from 1869); [Captain R. Langton Douglas, London, 1920; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Zurbarán," September 22–December 13, 1987, no. 30.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Zurbarán," January 14–April 11, 1988, no. 30.

    Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Zurbarán," May 3–July 30, 1988, no. 50.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting," March 4–June 8, 2003, no. 87.

  • References

    E. Rallón Mercado. Historia de Xerez de la Frontera. [probably before 1640], unpaginated [ms. probably written before 1640 according to Ref. Baticle 1987, p. 175]; published in part, 1926, pp. 139 f. [not in MMA; excerpts reprinted in Ref. Pemán 1950, pp. 226–27], describes the original appearance of the altarpiece above the main altar of the monastery church at Jerez, observing that "el milagro de la Defensión" is depicted in the main compartment of the first story and that the bays of the first and second storys are decorated with paintings of the life of Christ; admires the quality of the painting but does not specify the artist's name; elsewhere in the text [see Ref. Baticle, p. 192] places the miraculous intervention of the Virgin at El Sotillo in 1368.

    Bartolomé Gutiérrez. Historia de Jerez de la Frontera. 1787, pp. 231–32 [see Ref. Baticle 1987].

    D. Antonio Ponz. Viage de España, en que se da noticia de las cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella. 17, Madrid, 1792, p. 278, notes that a painting of the Virgin of the Rosary [now Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan], and one depicting "Our Lady aiding the inhabitants of Xerez in a battle which they won from the Moors" were put up on the walls of the lay brothers' choir.

    D. Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez. Diccionario histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las bellas artes en España. Madrid, 1800, vol. 6, p. 51, mentions this painting as hanging with a Virgin and Child in the lay brothers' choir.

    Notice des tableaux de la Galerie Espagnole exposés dans les salles du Musée Royal au Louvre. Paris, 1838, 1st ed., no. 355; 4th ed., no. 365 [see Ref. Baticle 1987].

    Richard Ford. "Sale of Louis Philippe's Spanish Pictures." Athenæum (May 14, 21, 28, 1853), unpaginated, [see Ref. Baticle 1987].

    William Stirling-Maxwell. Annals of the Artists of Spain. 2nd rev. ed. [1st ed. 1848]. London, 1891, vol. 3, p. 924, dates the paintings for the high altar to about 1633.

    Enrique Romero de Torres. "Los Zurbaranes del Museo de Cádiz." Boletín de la Comisión Provincial de Monumentos de Cádiz 1 (1908), p. 100, [see Ref. Baticle 1987].

    Elías Tormo y Monzó. "El despojo de los Zurbaranes de Cádiz, el viaje de Taylor, y la efímera Galería Española del Louvre." Cultura española 13 (1909), pp. 31–32, [see Ref. Baticle 1987].

    José Cascales y Muñoz. Francisco de Zurbarán: His Epoch, His Life and His Works. New York, 1918, pp. 43, 54–56, refers to it as seemingly lost.

    Hugo Kehrer. Francisco de Zurbarán. Munich, 1918, p. 71, cites it as a missing work.

    Harry B. Wehle. "A Painting by Zurbarán." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (November 1920), pp. 242–45, ill., identifies this picture as the battle scene described by Ponz at Jerez, noting that when it first entered the Museum it bore the title "The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa"; dates it "within a year or two of 1637" and suggests that the figure on the white horse "directing the battle" is Saint James.

    August L. Mayer. Letter. December 31, 1921, identifies our painting as no. 355 of Louis-Philippe's Galerie Espagnole.

    Valerian von Loga. Die Malerei in Spanien vom XIV. bis XVIII. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1923, p. 275, cites it as a lost work.

    Pedro Gutiérrez de Quijano y López. La Cartuja de Jerez. Jerez, Spain, 1924, pp. 40–41, 45, as said to be in America now.

    Pedro Beroqui. "Apuntes para la historia del Museo del Prado." Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones 40 (1932), p. 97, publishes a document from 1810 or shortly thereafter with a list of paintings, including our painting, mandated for France by Joseph I.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 235, ill., identifies the battle depicted here as "the decisive battle [of the Christians] against the Moors at Jerez in 1340"; calls it "one of a series which Zurbarán painted (about 1633–1639)" for the monastery at Jerez.

    Martin Soria. "Francisco de Zurbarán: A Study of His Style I." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 25 (January 1944), p. 48, fig. 11, dates it about 1636.

    Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. Zurbarán. Barcelona, 1948, pp. 30, 46, no. 148, dates it to 1638–39; criticizes Zurbarán's depiction of horses.

    Martin S. Soria. "Some Flemish Sources of Baroque Painting in Spain." Art Bulletin 30 (December 1948), p. 255, fig. 12, observes that the composition of this picture was inspired by an engraving by the Flemish artist, Schelte á Bolswert published in 1624 and depicting Saint Augustine Appearing to Francesco Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (fig. 10).

    Paul Guinard. "Los conjuntos dispersos o desaparecidos de Zurbarán: Anotaciones a Ceán Bermúdez (III)." Archivo español de arte 22 (January–March 1949), pp. 14–20, pl. 6 (hypothetical reconstruction), suggests a reconstruction of the altarpiece, identifying the two angels with censers in the Museo de Cádiz as those seen by Ponz on the doors of the sacristy; wonders if the "Virgin of the Rosary" in Poznan was at the center of the second story, but thinks not, as he erroneously believes its dimensions to be different from those of our canvas; suggests in its place a statue of the "Virgin de la Defensión".

    César Pemán. "La reconstrucción del retablo de la Cartuja de Jerez de la Frontera." Archivo español de arte 23 (July–September 1950), pp. 203–27, discusses in detail available evidence regarding the original design of the altarpiece and its site, including impressions left in the plaster of the cathedral walls from the mouldings of the original framing architecture; considers the placement of the Virgin and Child in Poznan over our painting the simplest solution to the reconstruction, but is troubled that two images of the Virgin result, and wonders about the appropriateness of a Virgin of the Rosary over the high altar of a Carthusian church; instead suggests the "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" (Museo de Cádiz) of about the same size, shape and date as our painting, and also from the monastery, was originally above the Battle on the retable.

    Martin S. Soria. The Paintings of Zurbarán. London, 1953, pp. 8, 16, 24, 31, 164–65, no. 133, pl. 62, observes that the Poznan "Virgin of the Rosary" (cat. no. 134, p. 165) was perhaps in the second tier, center, of the altarpiece, above our painting.

    Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 341, no. 3044, as depicting a victory of the people of Jerez against the Moors at El Sotillo with the intervention of Saint James; dates it about 1638–39.

    Paul Guinard. Zurbarán et les peintres espagnols de la vie monastique. Paris, 1960, pp. 105, 131, 198–200, 277, no. 570, ill., support's Pemán's 1950 reconstruction of the altar with "St. Bruno in Ecstasy" above our painting.

    Paul Guinard. "Zurbarán en France." Revista de estudios extremeños 17 (1961), p. 369.

    César Pemán. "Zurbarán en la hora actual." Revista de estudios extremeños 17 (1961), unpaginated, following p. 284 (hypothetical reconstruction).

    Julián Gállego. La peinture espagnole. Paris, 1962, p. 122.

    Ramón Torres Martín. Zurbarán: El pintor gótico del siglo XVII. Seville, 1963, unpaginated, no. 195, pl. 64.

    César Pemán. "Miscelánea zurbaranesca." Archivo español de arte 37 (April–September 1964), pp. 103–4, reconfirms his belief that the large "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" in Cádiz was originally above our painting in the altarpiece.

    Consuelo Sanz-Pastor in Exposición Zurbarán en el III centenario de su muerte. Exh. cat., Casón del Buen Retiro. [Madrid], [1964], pp. 43, 73–75.

    Paul Guinard. "¿Zurbarán, pintor de paisajes?" Goya (January–April 1965), pp. 210, 213, ill. (detail), observes in the landscape a combination of elements found in other pictures and describes the effect of the painting as a "theater for the meditation of hermits or monks".

    José Gudiol in Encyclopedia of World Art. 17, New York, 1967, col. 972.

    Anna Dobrzycka. "Madonna Rózancowa Zurbarana w Poznanskim Muzeum." Studia Muzealne 6 (1968), pp. 49–56, ill., suggests that the Poznan "Virgin of the Rosary" was the center of the first tier of the altarpiece, and that the Apotheosis of Saint Bruno in Cádiz was above it; according to her reconstruction, our painting was not originally part of the altarpiece.

    Ilse Hempel Lipschutz. Spanish Painting and the French Romantics. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 125, 133, 225, 319, 393–94 n. 34.

    Tiziana Frati. L'opera completa di Zurbarán. Milan, 1973, pp. 103–5, no. 251, ill., dates it to 1638.

    Jonathan Brown. Francisco de Zurbarán. New York, [1974], pp. 36–37, 114, colorpl. 28, fig. 39 (reconstruction).

    Xavier de Salas. An Illustrated Inventory of Famous Dismembered Works of Art: European Painting. Paris, 1974, pp. 117–18, 124–26, ill., places the "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" at the center of the second tier, above our painting.

    José Gudiol in Julián Gállego and José Gudiol. Zurbarán, 1598–1664. New York, 1977, pp. 28, 40, 86, no. 126, fig. 134, place the "St. Bruno in Ecstasy" above our painting on the original altarpiece; note that our painting reveals the artist's weakness in narrative painting.

    Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XVII: Dramatic Days." Apollo, n.s., 109 (June 1979), p. 454, ill. p. 449.

    Jeannine Baticle and Cristina Marinas. La Galerie Espagnole de Louis-Philippe au Louvre, 1838–1848. Paris, 1981, pp. 232–33, no. 365, ill.

    Jeannine Baticle and Alain Roy. L'age Baroque en Espagne et en Europe septentrionale. Geneva, [1986?], p. 94.

    Enrique Valdivieso. Historia de la pintura sevillana: Siglos XIII al XX. Seville, 1986, p. 186, follows reconstruction of the altarpiece with this painting in the center of the first tier, below the "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy".

    Jeannine Baticle et. al. Zurbarán. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1987, pp. 28–30, 58, 173–80, 192–95, no. 30, ill. (in color, and as part of reconstruction), notes that the date of the battle depicted here remains uncertain and states that if Martín de Roa's information is accurate [Santos Honorio, Eutichio, Estevan, patronos de Xerez de la Frontera, nombre, sitio, antigüedad de la ciudad, Seville, 1617], the ambush at El Sotillo took place at the time of the first reconquest of Jerez, in 1248"; also reports Rallón Mercado's [see Ref. before 1640] 1368 date for the miracle, and comments that Jerez was ravaged by the Moors until the end of the reign of Pedro the Cruel in 1369; describes in detail the history of the altarpiece from the 17th century; doubts that the Cádiz "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" was in the center of the second tier, finding the subject inappropriate for the high altar of a Carthusian church, and adding that it would be unusual for a canvas with a rounded top to be surmounted by a canvas of the same shape; believes that our battle scene was removed from the retable "in Zurbarán's time, because the "Virgin of the Rosary"... must have been intended as a pendant to [it]"; rejects Soria's assumption [see Ref. Soria 1948] that the scene was taken from an engraving by Schelte à Bolswert, noting that other models can be found in contemporary Spanish art, and states that the pikeman was inspired by the harquebusier looking out of the picture at the extreme left in Velázquez's "Surrender of Breda" (Prado, Madrid).

    Carlos Fuentes. "Zurbarán's Theater of Martyrs." Art News 86 (October 1987), pp. 118–19, ill. (color).

    Odile Delenda. "Zurbarán, interprète idéal de la Contre-Réforme espagnole." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 38, no. 2 (1988), pp. 123, 126 n. 53, ill.

    Odile Delenda. "Zurbarán." Le petit journal. 177, January 1988, unpaginated, no. 30, ill. (as part of reconstruction).

    Enriqueta Harris. "Paris: Zurbarán." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), p. 253, notes that several canvases (including this one) were exhibited as an altarpiece in Louis-Philippe's Galerie Espagnole.

    Walter A. Liedtke. "Zurbarán's Jerez Altarpiece Reconstructed." Apollo, n.s., 127 (March 1988), pp. 155–62, ill. (color), places the Poznan "Virgin of the Rosary" in the center of the second tier, over our painting, stressing that at the time of the Counter-Reformation, the Carthusian order "claimed to have miraculously received the rosary before the Dominicans"; publishes a detailed reconstruction, including the sculptural elements, as well as two paintings of angels with censers now in the Museo de Cádiz.

    Santiago Alcolea. Zurbarán. Barcelona, 1989, p. 13, describes it as of "uneven quality".

    Enrique Valdivieso. "Nouvelles perspectives sur Zurbarán." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 39, no. 1 (1989), p. 22.

    Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Pintura barroca en España (1600–1750). Madrid, 1992, p. 197.

    María Luisa Caturla. Francisco de Zurbarán. Paris, 1994, pp. 150–53, 169 n. 83, ill. (color), places it in the center of the lower tier below the Cádiz "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy".

    Prieto. "Otras fuentes grabadas utilizadas por Francisco de Zurbarán." Archivo español de arte 67 (October–December 1994), pp. 360–62, 368, ill. (details), states that Zurbarán borrowed motifs from Antonio Tempesta's engraving of a battle between Christians and Moors.

    Claudie Ressort in The Dictionary of Art. 33, New York, 1996, p. 731.

    Enrique Pareja López. Francisco de Zurbarán: 1598–1998. Exh. cat., Museo Obispado CajaSur de Bellas Artes. Córdoba, 1997, p. 96, ill. p. 19 (color).

    Janis Tomlinson. From El Greco to Goya: Painting in Spain 1561–1828. New York, 1997, pp. 71–73, 75, ill. (color).

    Jeannine Baticle. "Zurbarán vu par Dauzats en 1836." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 132 (October 1998), pp. 102, 107, ill. (photograph and Dauzat's sketches after our painting), reproduces Adrien Dauzats's 1836 notebook with drawings and notes on the Jerez altarpiece.

    Benito Navarrete Prieto. "Zurbarán y el rompecabezas de la creación." Actas del Simposium Internacional: Zurbarán y su época, Fuente de Cantos, Llerena, Guadalupe. Mérida, 1998, pp. 76–77, ill. (details).

    Benito Navarrete in "Aportaciones a los Zurbaranes de la Cartuja de Jerez." Zurbarán, estudio y conservación de los monjes de la Cartuja de Jerez [this book was printed but never distributed]. Madrid, 1998, unpaginated, ill. (overall in color and details), cites two inventories from 1820 which place the "Ecstacy of Saint Bruno" in the second tier above our painting.

    Benito Navarrete Prieto. La pintura andaluza del siglo XVII y sus fuentes grabadas. Madrid, 1998, pp. 281–83, ill. (details).

    Francisco Javier Pizarro Gómez. "Zurbarán y el zurbaranismo en América. El caso de Puebla." Actas del Simposio Internacional, Zurbarán y su época: Fuente de Cantos, Llerena, Guadalupe. Mérida, 1998, p. 137.

    Enrique Valdivieso. Zurbaran: IV centenario. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. Seville, 1998, pp. 58–60, ill. (color), notes that the artist borrowed figures from Tempesta's and Stradanus's engravings.

    Odile Delenda. Sur la terre comme au ciel, Zurbarán: Le retable de Jerez de la Frontera. [Paris], 1999, pp. 6, 13, 36–40, 43–44, 130–31, ill. (in color, and as part of reconstruction), supports reconstruction of "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" above our painting.

    James Hogg. "Francisco de Zurbarán." Analecta cartusiana 156 (1999), p. 35.

    Benito Navarrete Prieto and Jeannine Baticle. Zurbarán ante su centenario [1598–1998]: Textos de la ponencias presentadas en el Seminario de Historia de Arte en Soria. Valladolid, 1999, pp. 135, 137–38, 182, 186–87, ill. (details).

    Enrique Pareja López in Francisco de Zurbarán, 1598–1664. Exh. cat., Centro Cultural la General. Granada, 1999, pp. 63, 132, ill. (reconstruction, color), follows reconstruction of altarpiece with "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" above our painting.

    Odile Delenda in Zurbarán: La obra final: 1650–1664. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, 2000, p. 46.

    Véronique Gerard Powell. Autour de Zurbarán: Catalogue raisonné des peintures de l'école espagnole du XVe au XIXe siècles du Musée de Grenoble. Paris, 2000, pp. 11, 36–41, 44 n. 38, p. 66, ill. (color), places "St. Bruno in Ecstasy" above our painting in the altarpiece, noting that it was customary to have images of an order's founder on the main altar.

    José Marín-Medina in Francisco de Zurbarán y su obrador: Obras en España y en el Virreynato del Perú. Exh. cat., Torreón de Lozoya. Segovia, [2001], p. 38.

    Javier Portús Pérez in Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay, Paris. New York, 2003, pp. 22, 24, 38, 99 n. 39, pp. 105, 108 n. 72, pp. 180, 377, 463–64, no. 87, ill. p. 463 and fig. 3.12 (color) [French ed., Manet/Velázquez: La manière espagnole au XIXe siècle, Paris, 2002, p. 304, fig. 19 (color)], believes our scene was at the center of the altarpiece; notes that the division of battle scenes into planes with larger figures in the foreground has close precedents in Spanish art, and was particularly favored by the artists decorating the Hall of Realms in the Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid; adds that Zurbarán himself had contributed paintings to that decorative ensemble.

    Charlotte Hale. "Dating Velázquez's 'The Supper at Emmaus'." Metropolitan Museum Journal 40 (2005), p. 71, notes that the type of canvas (called 'mantelillo' or 'mantel') used for this painting was "woven with intermittent clusters of small diamonds," and was used during the seventeenth century in Naples, Toledo, and Seville.

    Matthias Weniger in Greco, Velázquez, Goya: Spanische Malerei aus deutschen Sammlungen. Exh. cat., Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg. Munich, 2005, p. 102, under no. 38.

  • Notes

    This painting was the main compartment of a three-tiered altarpiece executed by Zurbarán between 1638 and 1639 for the apse of the church of the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Defensión at Jerez de la Frontera. Both a "Virgin of the Rosary" (Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan) and a "Saint Bruno in Ecstasy" (Museo de Cádiz)—each of which has a rounded top and dimensions close to those of our battle scene—have been proposed as the work that was originally installed above our picture on the second tier of the altarpiece. There is still no clear consensus about this part of the reconstruction. Four large rectangular paintings with scenes from the life of Christ, all now in the Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture, Grenoble, decorated the bays of the first and second tiers: the Annunciation, Adoration of the Shepherds, Adoration of the Magi, and a Circumcision. At the center of the third tier was a polychromed wood sculpture of Christ on the Cross by José de Arce (present whereabouts unknown), and life-size statues of the apostles, also by Arce (now at the Jerez monastery), were situated to the right and left of each painting. Six smaller pictures depicting the four evangelists, Saint Lawrence, and Saint John the Baptist, all now in the Museo de Cádiz, were also part of the ensemble, and two angels with censers, also in the Cádiz museum, must have been on the doors on either side of the altar table. At some point before 1792, the "Battle of El Sotillo" and the "Virgin of the Rosary" were taken from their original settings and hung on the walls of the lay brothers' choir, where they were seen by Ponz (see Ref. 1792)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History