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Jusepe de Ribera

Sep - 1 - 2013

riberaJusepe de Rivera(b. 1591 Játiva, Spain, d. 1652 Naples, Italy ) was born in Játiba, near Valencia, where he was probably trained by Francisco Ribalta (1565-1628). He also was called Lo Spagnoletto (“the Little Spaniard”) by his contemporaries and early writers. Ribera was a leading painter of the Spanish school, although his mature work was all done in Italy.
Ribera was born near Valencia, Spain at Xàtiva. He was baptized on February 17, 1591. His father was a shoemaker, perhaps on a large scale. His parents intended him for a literary or learned career, but he neglected these studies and is said to have apprenticed with the Spanish painter Francisco Ribalta in Valencia, although no proof of this connection exists. Longing to study art in Italy, he made his way to Rome via Parma, where he is recorded in 1611. According to one source, a cardinal noticed him drawing from the frescoes on a Roman palace facade, and housed him. Roman artists gave him the nickname “Lo Spagnoletto”.
In 1612-1613, Rivera left for Italy, where he led the life of a half-beggar, constantly traveling throughout the country. During his travels to Parma, Padua and Rome, Rivera became acquainted with the works of Raphael, Correggio, Titian and Veronese.
Paradoxically, however, Ribera actually lived and worked in the Italian state of Naples for most of his life, stating that Spain was “a loving mother to foreigners and a very cruel stepmother to her own sons. ”
The “young Spaniard working in the manner of Caravaggio” was causing the Bolognese artists concern, Lodovico Carracci wrote admiringly of Jusepe de Ribera in 1618. Ribera, second son of a Valencian shoemaker, had only been in Italy about four years and was already making a splash.
In 1616, he settled in Naples, then owned by Spain, and developed a style, which owed much to Caravaggio. In Naples, Ribera became a painter to the Spanish Viceroy and later to his successor, the Duke of Monterrey, who procured commissions from the Augustine monastery in Salamanca (Nativity, Pietà, The Virgin with Saints Anthony and Augustine. 1631-1635).

Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian

However, although his early work is markedly tenebrist, it is 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). He undoubtedly painted some powerful pictures of this type, notably the celebrated Martyrdom of St Bartholomew (Prado, Madrid, c. 1630), but he was equally capable of great tenderness, as in The Adoration of the Shepherds (Louvre, Paris, 1650), and his work is remarkable for his feeling for individual humanity. Indeed, he 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.
After 1632 Ribera’s paintings became softer in tone and more classical in feeling. His palette lightened, perhaps through Venetian or Flemish influence, and he became primarily concerned with the expression of spirituality. Throughout the decade, he received major commissions from the Spanish king and the Neapolitan viceroys. By the 1640s Ribera was wealthy and operated a large workshop. His influence was extensive, inspiring artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Salvator Rosa, and Luca Giordano.
Ribera spawned a school of his own. Italian, Spanish and Flemish painters were engaged in his workshop, and while Rivera was of particular importance to Neapolitan art, great painters, such as Rembrandt and Velásquez, also found him an inspiration.
Ribera’s work sank into obscurity after his death because of his reputation for cruelty. He painted the horrors and reality of human cruelty and showed he valued truth over idealism. The rehabilitation of his reputation began with exhibits in London at the Royal Academy in 1982 and in New York at the Metropolitan in 1992.
Ribera was long the only Spanish painter who enjoyed a European fame; this he owed to the fact that he had lived at Naples and has often been classed with the European school. Because of this he is now denied the glory which was formerly his. He is regarded more or less as a deserter, at any rate as the least national of Spanish painters. But in the seventeenth century Naples was still Spanish, and by living there a man did not cease to be a Spanish subject. By removing the centre of the school to Naples, Ribera did Spain a great service. Spanish art, hitherto little known, almost lost at Valencia and Seville, thanks to Ribera was put into wider circulation. Through the authority of a master recognized even at Rome the school felt emboldened and encouraged. It is true that his art, although more Spanish than any other, is also somewhat less specialized; it is cosmopolitan. Like Seneca and Lucian, who came from Cordova, and St. Augustine, who came from Carthage, Ribera has expressed in a universal language the ideal of the country where life has most savour.

Resources on the Internet

Jusepe de Ribera-Wikipedia

Brief Biography

Brief Biography

Brief Biography

Extensive discussion. Artist’s work

Biography and Review

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