The most important of the Hermitage's 150 canvases by Spanish artists are displayed in the Small Skylight Room and the nearby Spanish Room in the New Hermitage. Works by Ribera, Zurbaran, Velazquez, the most outstanding artists of the 17th century - the "Golden Age" of Spanish painting - give the collection particular significance.
Among the 16th-century paintings, two works attract considerable attention, El Greco's The Apostles Peter and Paul (late 1580s) and Nailing Christ to the Cross (1582), the first dated work by F. Ribalta, the founder of the Spanish realist school.
The 17th century opens with a number of remarkable examples of formal portraiture, such as Portrait of Don Diego de Villamaior (1605) by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz.
There are six works by Jose Ribera, among them SS Sebastian and Irene (1682) and St Onuphrius, and three works by Zurbaran, St Lawrence (1636), King St Fernando III (1630s), The Childhood of the Virgin (late 1650s-1660s), all brilliant examples of the dominant tendency in Spanish art during the first half of the 17th century, which has gone down in history as "dramatic realism".
But the central figure in the "Golden Age" was Diego Velazquez, represented here by one of his early works, Luncheon (1630s), and by Portrait of Count Olivares (about 1640), an outstanding piece of great charm and force.
Thirteen paintings by Murillo provide an unusually clear portrait of the artist, whose work marked the culmination of 17th-century Spanish art. Monumental canvases such as the paired Isaac Blessing Jacob and Jacob's Ladder (1665-1670) and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1665-1670), contrast with the more intimate genre painting, Boy with a Dog (1650).
The fine Portrait of Antonia Zarate (about 1811) reveals the skill of Francisco de Goya, the leading Spanish painter in the late 18th and early 19th c.This portrait is the only painting by Goya in the collection.
The Apostles Peter and Paul
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez
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