Zurbarán was born in the province of Extremadura, but he trained in Seville and was to base himself there for most of his career, where he was the leading painter from about 1630-1650. He had a brief spell at the court of Philip IV in Madrid in 1634-35, painting a series of Labours of Hercules and a battle piece for the new Buen Retiro palace. Zurbarán is best known as a 'painter of monks' on account of the many monastic commissions he received, but he also executed numerous more public religious works and a few exquisite still lives. His style is distinguished by its compelling naturalism, strong chiaroscuro and, in his religious works, its profound sense of spirituality. During the 1640s his workshop specialised in the production of series paintings for export to the New World. Towards the end of his life, after his once dominant position in Seville had been eclipsed by a younger generation of painters, notably Murillo, he returned to Madrid, but died in poverty.