The painting offered here shows the detail of the figure of the St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in three-quarter view while praying. Augustine is one of the most important theologians and philosophers of the Catholic Church, who is best known for his work called ‘Confessions’. He was baptized by the bishop and church father Saint Ambrose of Milan in the year 387 and was until his death Bishop of Hippo Regius.
Ribera presents the clergy on his knees, his hands folded in prayer, surrounded by his attributes the scroll, scepter and miter, which identify him as a scholar and holy man. His head is illuminated by an incident light, which emphasizes his ascetic face and hands. The dramatic use of light and shade is attributable to the Chiaroscuro painting as it was characterized by Caravaggio in particular. Ribera also uses this technique in his compositions in order to increase the tension between character and background, as he did in comparable paintings such as ‘El Ciego y el lazarillo’, today in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Ohio, or the painting ‘San José y el Niño’ the Prado Museum, Madrid. The latter furthermore locates an almost identical version of our painting, with the difference that it shows the figure of the saint in full-length with the representation of the room. Another version of the subject, according to the expert Nicola Spinosa, is further to be found in the church of San Augustine de Marchena in Seville.
Spinosa, N.: Ribera. L’Opera completa. Electa Nápoli. Nápoles, 2006. p. 324.
Spinosa, N.: Ribera. La Obra completa. Fundación Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2008. p. 405.
Spinosa, N.: José de Ribera. Bajo el signo de Caravaggio (1613-1633). Valencia y Sevilla. 2005.
Perez Sanchez, A.: Ribera (1591-1652). Catálogo de la exposición. Museo del Prado, 1992.
The painting is in age-appropriate good condition. The canvas is relined. Some retouching in the background and the area of the face, the hands and the book visible under UV light. Occasionally light abrasions in the edges, otherwise generally of good impression. The image dimensions are 138 x 105 cm, the frame dimensions 162 x 132 cm. The frame with slight traces of age and wear such as inactive worm infestation.
Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652)
Jusepe, also known as Jose or Giuseppe de Ribera or Lo Spagnoletto, was baptized in 1591 in the parish church of San Tecla Valencia. Around 1609/10 he traveled to Rome, where he was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in 1613. Ribera’s works are not only influenced by Caravaggio and El Greco or the Bolognese school, but also by Carracci and the naturalism of the Rome-based Flemish painters as well as classicism as it was represented by Guido Reni. In 1616 Ribera married Caterina Azzolino, daughter of the renowned Sicilian painter Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino. Since the 1620s the artist was intensely occupied with the art of printmaking, probably to reproduce his works and thus to attract new clients. In the 1630s he worked for the vice king Conde de Monterrey, for whom he was involved in the decoration of the church Convento de las Agustinas Recoletas de Monterrey in Salamanca. With regard to the subjects of his paintings Ribera used a wide range of religious and secular themes.
Ribera can be considered one of the most influential painters for the Neapolitan 17th century School. He had a large number of students and followers, including Aniello Falcone, Francesco Fracanzano, and Luca Giordano. Works by Ribera are on display in numerous major museum collections, including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna, the National Gallery in London, and the Wallfraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.