The Creation of an Artist

Guan Zhijiang

PureInsight | October 10, 2007

[] 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

"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.

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