September 27, 2014



Painter who was one of the first artists to be influenced by the new realism initiated by Caravaggio in Italy.

Ribalta´s use of light and shadow to give solidity to his forms made him the first native Spanish tenebroso (a painter who emphasizes darkness rather than light), and he was a major influence on later Spanish painters.

Ribalta probably studied under Navarrete el Mudo at El Escorial and in Madrid.
Only one painting from his first period has survived, the Nailing to the Cross (1582) now in the Hermitage Leningrad. It is an undistinguished Mannerist work.

In 1598 he moved to Valencia and established a large studio under the patronage of the archbishop Juan de Ribera.
His composition of this period, notably the Retable of Santiago in the church of Algemesí (1603, 1610) are highly imitative and mediocre.

In his last period after 1612 he achieved both originally and grandeur.
Painting sich as The Singer and Christ Embracing St. Bernard (both in the Prado Madrid) and the Portacoeli Retable (in the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Valencia) are marked by their monumental and powerfully modelled forms, a simplicity of composition and realistic lighting.

These late paintings anticipate the work of Velázquez, Zurbarán and José de Ribera later in the 17th century.


Painter and printmaker noted for his Baroque dramatic realism and his depictions of religious and mythological subjects.

He was born in Spain but spent most of his life in Italy where he was known as Lo Spagnoletto.
Little is known of his life in Spain though he is said by the painter and biographer Antonio Palomino to have received his first training there under Francisco Ribalta.

It is not known when he went to Italy but there is evidence that as a young man he worked in Parma and Rome.
In 1626 he signed as a member of the Roman Academy of St. Luke and in 1631 as a knight of the Papal Order of Christ.

The whole of Ribera´s surviving work appears to belong to the period after he settled in Naples.
His large production comprises mainly religious compositions with a number of classical and genre (everyday life) subjects and a few portraits.
He did much work for the Spanish viceroys by whom many of his paintings were sent to Spain.
He was also employed by the church and had numerous private patrons of various nationalities.
He became one of the chief followers of Caravaggio who formed the Neapolitan school and its often referred to as a Neapolitan artist.

Ribera´s earliest known painting is probably the Crucifixion (Colegiata Osuna) presumed to have been made for the Duke of Osuna viceroy in 1616-20.
From 1621 onward there are numerous signed, dated and documented works, somo of the more important are Immaculate Conception (1635, Augustinian convent Salamanca), The Trinity (1636-37 Prado), Clubfooted Boy (1642, Lovre), St. Jerome (1644, Prado) and The Holy Family with St. Catherine (1648, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York).
In 1651 he completed the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (St. Martino Naples) one of his last works.

The chief elements of Ribera´s style, tenebrism (dramatic use of light and shadow) and naturalism derived from Caravaggio are used to emphasize the mental and physical suffering of penitent or martyred saints or tortured gods. This is evident in probably his most famous painting The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (1630 or 1639, Prado), an early picture based on Caravaggio´s pinwheel compositional scheme. Realistic detail often horrific is accentuated by means of coarse brush marks on thick pigment to represent wrinkles, beards and flesh wounds.

Although Ribera never entirely abandoned detailed realism or dramatic lighting, his works after 1630 exhibit more spacious setttings, lighter tones, richer colours and more pleasing subjects. This change in styles has been attributed to the influence of Bolognese and Venetian artists and to Velázquez who visited Naples in 1630-31 and 1649-50. It has also been suggested that this change in style was made necessary when the Count of Monterey, who preferred paintings of the Venetian school, was appointed viceroy.

Ribera was one of the few 17th-century Spanish artists to produce numerous drawings which were widely imitated. His etchings were among the finest produced in Italy and Spain during the Baroque period. Ribera´s technique was partly derived from the Bolognese and is characterized by sensitivity of outline and the sureness with wich he rendered the changes from brilliant light to darkest shadow.

The objective realism of such portraits as his Portrait of a Bearded Woman (1631, Lerma-Medinaceli Collection Toledo) relates them to the early manner of Velázquez and to the school of Seville. His figures of ancient philosophers in picaresque guise, such as the Archimedes (1630, Prado) are typically Spanish subjects that Ribera popularized in Italy and Spain.

He had many pupils and followers in Naples.
In Spain his works were widely copied and imitated and were one of the chief sources of Caravaggesque naturalism.
Like other Spanish naturalists he was admired and studied by 19th-century French painters.

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