Diego De Borgraf (Circle)

The Death Of St Francis Xavier

Diego De Borgraf (Circle)

The Death Of St Francis Xavier

This late 17th-century oil painting from the circle of Flemish painter Diego de Borgraf (1618-1686) depicts the death of St Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic missionary.

Stylistically, it’s highly reminiscent of Spanish colonial art produced in Mexico and de Borgraf is considered the first Baroque painter in Puebla.


Diego de Borgraf arrived in Mexico in 1640 having travelled over with Bishop Don Juan de Palafox and fellow artist Pedro Garcia Ferrer (1583–1660). His task was monumental, to decorate the newly constructed Basilica Cathedral of Puebla with various religious works to educate and inform the local region.

Where would you start in such an impressive and vast building? Can you imagine the planning and various discussions?

Somewhat fortunately for de Borgraf, in 1640, numerous European prints already existed covering various religious subjects and these became an aid for some of his groundwork. However, given the task at hand, he still required the assistance of others and hence, established a workshop where he trained apprentices and students.


St Francis Xavier was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1506. Following a period of teaching philosophy in Paris, he undertook missionary work in Asia. He died from a fever in 1552 and was canonized by Pope Gregory V in 1622. Here, we see the Saint in transition, at the moment of death, wearing the black habit of the Society of Jesus. He looks up to the heavens and clutches a crucifix.

During the 17th century, St Francis Xavier was depicted by various artists working in Mexico but, of the paintings readily available to view, Diego de Borgraf’s sits closest stylistically. With this in mind, it’s plausible that the artist either worked in his circle or was trained by his hand. We made contact with an organisation in California (PESSCA) which maintains an online collection of prints relating to Spanish colonial art. Officials there managed to locate an engraving very similar in terms of content.

Learn more about Diego de Borgraf in our directory

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 39” x 22½” / 99cm x 57cm
Year of creation: c. 1680
Condition: Craquelure but the paint is stable. General age-related discolouration. Two old repairs.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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