A Saint Tied to a Tree, José de Ribera. Red chalk, 232 x 170 mm, 1626 © The Trustees of the British Museum 1850, 0713.4

During the 1500s and 1600s Valencia prospered thanks to its thriving commercial trade in the Mediterranean. For many merchants and travellers the city was the point of entry before moving on to other parts of Spain. From the 15th century onwards its wealth and cosmopolitan nature were expressed through extensive artistic patronage and it is no coincidence that it was one of the first places where graphic practices associated with Renaissance Italy took hold.

Francisco Ribalta and Pedro de Orrente established the general guidelines for drawing in Valencia in the first half of the 17th century. Their skill at handling wash sets them apart from artists anywhere else in Spain. From the late 1600s and throughout the whole of the 1700s Valencia produced prominent draughtsmen who trained at private and official academies of drawing, such as Vicente Salvador Gómez, Juan Conchillos and José Camarón.

José de Ribera deserves special attention owing to his outstanding activity as a draughtsman. Although he was born in Játiva (Valencia), he pursued most of his career in Naples, where he practiced drawing as a formal and independent exercise.

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