This painting, made for the Convent of San Antonio de Padua in Seville, has been mentioned since 1700s as a work of significance. Historically attributed to Francisco Herrera the Elder, new scholarship indicates it is by Alonso Cano, who trained with Diego Velázquez in Seville. Cano, who was from Granada, painted this monumental canvas around 1636, before he moved to Madrid in 1638 to work for King Philip IV.
The painting depicts a rarely seen episode from the life of Saint Anthony that occurred when he went to preach in Rimini on the Adriatic coast. The populace refused to listen, so he addressed the fishes—they hold their heads out of the water to better hear his sermon. Here, the saint is shown kneeling and opening his arms to the fish, while a Franciscan gestures in surprise at the miracle. The size, scale, and loose painting technique suggest that the work was meant to be seen from a distance.
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder, Spanish, 1576-1656
Title
  • St. Anthony Preaching to the Fishes
Date ca. 1630
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Overall: 90 1/2 × 78 3/4 inches (229.9 × 200 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Joseph M. de Grimme Memorial Fund, Jill Ford Murray Fund, and gift from Shirley A. Mopper by exchange
Accession Number 2013.7
Department European Painting
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W220, Level 2 (see map)
painted for the Franciscan Convent of San Antonio de Padua (Seville, Spain);
1836, confiscated during the suppression of the convents;
1836, sold by Antonio Fortajada;
1836, purchased by Don Antonio Bravo (Seville, Spain);
by descent to his brother Don Aniceto Bravo (Seville, Spain);
by descent to the widow of Don Aniceto Bravo;
ca. 1853, sold by the widow of Don Aniceto Bravo.
1980, Don Millán Delgado (Seville, Spain).
(Art Market, Madrid, Spain).
1986, private collection (Madrid, Spain).
private collection.
(Robert Simon Fine Art, Inc., New York, New York, USA);
2013-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Ríos, José Amador de los. Sevilla pintoresca, ó, Descripcion de sus mas célebres monumentos artisticos. Seville, 1844, 419–420. [As by Alonso Cano, in the collection of Aniceto Bravo]

Leon, Felix Gonzalez de. Noticia artistica, historica y curiosa de todos los edificios publicos, sagrados y profanos de este muy noble, muy leal, muy heroica, e invicta Cuidad de Sevilla.... Seville, 1844, 258. [As by Cano, in the collection of Antonio Bravo, but stating it had been purchased by Bravo from the church on Feb. 6, 1814]

Carriazo, Juan de Mata. "Correspondencia de don Antonio Ponz con el conde del Aguilà.” Archivo Espanol de Arte y Arqueologia 5, no. 14 (1929): p. 166, pp. 179–180. [As by Herrera the Elder]

Thacher, John S. "The Paintings of Francisco de Herrera, The Elder.” Art Bulletin 19, no. 3 (Sept. 1937): p. 375. [As a lost painting by Herrera the Elder]

Ballesteros, Jorge Bemales. Alonso Cano en Sevilla. Seville, 1976, p. 121. [Citing the lost painting in the Bravo collection.]

Ripoli, Antonio Martínez. Francisco de Herrera 'El Viejo.' Seville, 1978, 193–194. cat. no. 22. [As a lost work by Herrera the Elder.]

Sánchez, Alfonso E. Pérez. Carreño, Rizi, Herrera y la pintura madrilena de su tiempo, 1650–1700, exh. cat., Madrid, 1986, p. 352. [As anonymous, ca. 1630–40.]

Sanchez, Alfonso E. Perez and Benito Navarrete Prieto, "Sabre Herrera el Viejo.” Archivo Español de Arte 276, (October–December 1996), p. 383, pp. 385–386, figs. 31–33. [As by Herrera the Elder]

Valdivieso, Enrique. Pintura Barrocca Sevillana. Seville 2003, p. 248. [As by Herrera the Elder, ca. 1640]

Bulletin of the DIA: Notable Acquisitions, 2000–2015. 89, no. 1/4 (2015)" pp. 44–45 (ill.).