Paintings Ribera, Jusepe de

Ribera, Jusepe de

1591 - 1652

Spain, Baroque

Ribera Paintings Reproduction and Biography

José (or Jusepe) de Ribera, Spanish painter, etcher, and draughtsman, active for all his known career in Italy, where he was called “Lo Spagnoletto” (the Little Spaniard). Little is known of his life before Ribera settled in Naples (at the time a Spanish possession) in 1616. Naples was then one of the main centres of the Caravaggesque style, and Ribera is often described as one of Caravaggio’s followers.

However, although his early paintings are markedly tenebrist, they are much more individual than that of most Caravaggesque artists, particularly in his vigorous and scratchy handling of paint. Similarly, his penchant for the typically Caravaggesque theme of bloody martyrdom has been overplayed, enshrined as it is in Byron’s lines: “Spagnoletto tainted/His brush with all the blood of all the sainted” (Don Juan, xiii. 71). Ribera undoubtedly painted some powerful paintings of this type, notably the celebrated Martyrdom of St Bartholomew (Prado, Madrid, c. 1630), but Ribera was equally capable of great tenderness, as in The Adoration of the Shepherds (Louvre, Paris, 1650), and his paintings are remarkable for his feeling for individual humanity. Indeed, Ribera laid the foundation of that respect for the dignity of the individual which was so important a feature of Spanish art from Velázquez to Goya.

This feature of his paintings is evident also in the secular subjects, such as The Clubfooted Boy (Louvre, 1642). Ribera was the first to breach the traditional Spanish dislike for mythological themes (Apollo and Marsyas, Musées Royaux, Brussels, 1637), and he broadened the Baroque repertory by his series of paintings of philosophers depicted as beggars or vagabonds (Archimedes, Prado, 1630).

Ribera gradually moved away from his early tenebrist style, and Ribera late paintings are often rich in colour and soft in modelling. Ribera was the leading painter in Naples in his period (Velázquez visited him during his second visit to Italy and probably during his first) and his paintings were influential in Spain (where much of them were exported) as well as in Italy. His reputation has remained high, and until the Napoleonic Wars Ribera and Murillo were virtually the only Spanish painters who were widely known outside their native country.