Jusepe de Ribera
Lot No. 72 -
Jusepe de Ribera
  • Jusepe de Ribera
  • Jusepe de Ribera
  • Jusepe de Ribera
  • Jusepe de Ribera

Jusepe de Ribera

(Játiva, Valencia 1591–1652 Naples)
Saint Onuphrius,
signed and indistinctly dated lower centre left: Jusepe de Ribera espanol/F. 163.,
oil on canvas, 99.5 x 74.8 cm, framed

Collection Alfred Robert Louis Dohme (1867–1952), Baltimore, Maryland;
his sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 23 April 1958, lot 38 (as Saint Paul);
purchased by the Lock Galleries, New York;
probably Collection Julio Lobo (1898–1983), Havana, Cuba;
Private collection, Canada

D. F. Darby, Some Cases of Mistaken Identity: a Study of Ribera’s Hermits in American Museums, in: Art in America, XXX, 1942, p. 42, fig. 2 (as Ribera);
C. Felton, Jusepe de Ribera: a catalogue raisonné, Pittsburgh 1971, p. 333 no. S-2 (under section B, studio attributions);
N. Spinosa, L’opera completa del Ribera, Milan 1978, p. 98, no. 44, as a late work with possible workshop assistance (opinion given on the basis of a photograph);
N. Spinosa, Ribera, Naples 2003, p. 300, no. A99 (as Ribera);
N. Spinosa, Ribera, Naples 2006, p. 300, no. A99 (as Ribera)

Jusepe de Ribera painted anchorite Saints like Onuphrius, Jerome, Anthony and Paul of Thebes on several occasions in compositions which usually repeated a similar scheme, with mystical figures emerging from the darkness and accompanied by a few, and at times interchangeable elements, such as the skull. This subject became popular in the early seventeenth century, especially in Rome and Naples, and Ribera painted these works from the beginning of his career, as well as similar compositions depicting philosophers and apostles. As a painter in Rome in the early 1610s, Ribera was aware of the work of Caravaggio and he assimilated and re-elaborated in the caravaggesque style. He moved to Naples in 1616.

The present work was created by Ribera in the 1630s, as revealed by the partially-legible date on the lower centre left of the painting. During this period, the extreme naturalism of his early years had been tempered by a more emotional rendition of the subjects. Saint Jerome in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, dates to the same period, and can be compared to the present Saint Onuphrius.The celebrated Apostle series and the Saviour by Ribera in the Prado Museum, Madrid are also from the same period.

The present painting depicts the anchorite Saint Onuphrius, represented with great intensity and extreme realism. The Saint, who chose to live as a hermit in the desert, is painted holding a stick and a rosary and glancing upwards in prayer. His grey hair and beard and his emaciated torso reflect his life of struggle and deprivation. On the left hand side of the painting, a skull emerges from the darkness, a typical hermit’s symbol which explains why, in the past, this Saint Onuphrius had been erroneously identified as Saint Paul (see provenance). Ribera, with his skill in recreating anatomical details through vibrant brush strokes, together with the rendering of intense light, painted both an image of reality and of extreme spirituality, making the protagonist appear almost like an icon.

Technical analysis
Ribera’s painting techique is very personal and impressive, as is clearly apparent in the present work: in his maturity he developed a method of painting that was based on short and thin brush-strokes, especially on faces which were applied at different angles, one close or juxtaposed to the other to convey the suggestion of flickering, vibrating light.

On the body the brush-strokes are larger and longer but maintain the application in a variety of directions. The method works particularly well for the flesh tones of figures such as the Saint here placed in a dark setting.

Ribera usually started a composition from a dark ground, frequently using brown and black, and then painted with a mixture of lead white with particles of ochre and vermilion, but also with additions of black, depending on the area and the desired effect. Black strokes are used here to reinforce the shadows and complete the anatomy, apparent on the arms and on the chest.

IR reflectography indicates the use of a quick outline black drawing along some parts of the figure, in order to separate it and the skull and the background.

We are grateful to Gianluca Poldi for the technical analysis.

Specialist: Mark MacDonnell

Jusepe de Ribera
Convert currency
  • realized price**
    EUR 270,273
    USD 308,000
  • estimate
    EUR 200,000 to 300,000
    USD 228,000 to 341,500

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Old Master Paintings
Date: 25.04.2017, 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum Vienna
Exhibition: 15.04. - 25.04.2017

**Purchase price incl. all charges, commissions and taxes

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