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Ribera, Jusepe de, lo Spagnoletto
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Ribera, Jusepe de, lo Spagnoletto

Játiva, Valencia (Spain), 1591 - Naples (Italy), 1652

Ribera, Jusepe de, lo Spagnoletto See author's file


1630. Oil on canvas.
Room 008

The painting is one of the most celebrated of Jusepe de Ribera´s so-called ragged philosophers. Although born in Spain, the artist spent his entire professional life in Italy. He appears to have been largely responsible for the invention of the subject in the mid 1610s, and it enjoyed great success in Italy over the course of the seventeenth century in the hands of artists such as Salvator Rosa and Luca Giordano. The philosopher depicted here was traditionally identified as the ancient Sicilian mathematician Archimedes, since he holds a compass and a sheaf of papers displaying geometric designs, and is surrounded by books. However, in a learned article on the iconography of ancient philosophers published in 1962, Delphine Fitz Darby proposed that he should be identified as Democritus (c.460-c.370 BC) -the laughing philosopher who mocks the folly of human behaviour- on account of his grin. Democritus is usually paired with Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher who despairs at the absurdity of the world. It has to be said that Ribera rarely made a special effort to identify his philosophers (only occasionally do they appear with an inscription, like those belonging to the series of six philosophers painted for the Prince of Liechtenstein in the mid 1630s, or Diogenes, whose attribute of the lantern makes his identity explicit). The Prado painting may be identifiable with a painting of a Philosopher with a compass that belonged to the third Duke of Alcalá, the Viceroy of Naples between 1629 and 1631 and Ribera´s principal patron during those years. It was paired with a philosopher who was shown writing, but the inventory reference does not specify their identity. The Prado canvas, which has been slightly reduced on the right side, is recorded as part of the Spanish Royal Collections from 1700. Ribera moved from Rome to Spanish-governed Naples in 1616 and became official painter to the viceroys, producing large numbers of works that were sent to Spain and especially to the court in Madrid. He painted mostly religious subjects, as well as mythological or classical themes and very occasionally portraits. His works are marked by an intense naturalism, a preference for dramatic illumination and astounding painterly virtuosity. He also produced a small corpus of etchings and was an original and influential draughtsman. The Prado´s Democritus (?) dates from the year in which Velázquez visited Naples and, while it shows no trace of the stylistic influence of Velázquez, it bears a familial relationship -as has often been pointed out- with that painter´s Triumph of Bacchus, or the Drinkers 1628–29 (P1170). Velázquez may have remembered Ribera´s work and others like it when he came to paint his own philosophers, Aesop (P1206) and Menippus (P1207) in the 1630s. Ribera must have posed a model before him to paint this picture, just as he would have done for a portrait. We are given the impression that the distinctive physiognomic traits of the sitter are conveyed with great fidelity: his broad nose and large mouth, the crow´s feet deeply etched into his face on account of his no-doubt perennial grin, and his long, bony fingers all create a sense of the individual. The skin on his face is painted in gritty impasto but has a joyous glow to it, and the halo of lighter-coloured paint around his head (the visual effect of dense underpaint) endows him with an optimistic vivacity. Nicola Spinosa, a specialist in Ribera´s work, has commented eloquently on both the individual and the archetypal character of the representation: It is almost a portrait from life of some peasant from the streets of vice-regal Naples, whose ancient Greco-Levantine traits were distilled by the painter into an image of typically irrepressible Mediterranean vitality and humanity (Finaldi, G.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 96).


Technical data

Related artworks

Inventory number
Ribera, Jusepe de, lo Spagnoletto
Height: 125 cm; Width: 81 cm
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

The Burlington magazine., The Burlington magazine, 1948.

Trapier, Elizabeth du Gué, Ribera, [Hispanic Society of America], Nueva York, 1952, pp. 64-65 / lám.38-39.

Fitz Darby, D., Ribera and the wise men, The Art bulletin, 44, 1962, pp. 279-307.

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las de las Bellas Artes en España, IV, Reales Academias de Bellas Artes de San Fernando y de la Historia, Madrid, 1965, pp. 191.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Treasures of Spanish Art / Tesoros del Arte Español, Ministerio de Información y Turismo, Madrid, 1968.

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Viñaza, Conde de la (Cipriano Muñoz y Manzano), Adiciones al Diccionario Historico al Diccionariod e los mas ilustres profesores de Bellas Artes en España, III, Atlas, Madrid, 1972, pp. 309.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Ponz, Antonio, Viage Fuera de España. Facs. 1785, II, Atlas, Madrid, 1972, pp. 233.

Spinosa, Nicola, L' opera completa del Ribera, Milano, 1978, pp. 99, n.40.

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Spinosa, Nicola, La obra pictórica completa de Ribera, Noguer, Barcelona, 1979, pp. 99/ nº40.

Pita Andrade, José Manuel, Tchedevi Ispanskoi Shivopisi XVI-XIX. Vekov 12 Muzei Prado, Moscú, 1980, pp. nº12.

Jusepe de Ribera: lo Spagnoletto, 1591-1652, Washington University Press, Fort Worth, 1982, pp. 149/ lám.147.

Brown, Jonathan, Mecenas y coleccionistas españoles de Jusepe de Ribera, Goya: Revista de Arte, 183, 1984, pp. 143.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 558.

Valdivieso, E., Spanish Painting of 16th & 17th Century. Pintura Española de..., The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokio, 1985.

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., Da el Greco a Goya. I Secoli D'Oro Della Pittura Spagnola, Electa, Milán, 1986, pp. 58.

Ferrari, Oreste, L'iconografia dei filosofi antichi nella pittura del sec. XVII in Italia, Storia dell'arte, 1986, pp. 112-156 [156/ lám.19].

Felton, Craig, Ribera's philosophers for the Prince of Liechtenstein, The Burlington magazine, 128, 1986, pp. 78/ lám.12.

Brown, Jonathan, Velázquez: pintor y cortesano, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 163/ lám.185.

Brown, Jonathan; Kagan Richard, The Duke of Alcalá: His collection and its evolution, The Art bulletin, 69, 1987, pp. 243-251 [244/ lám.10].

Brown, Jonathan, La Edad de Oro de la pintura en España, Nerea, Madrid, 1990, pp. 185/ lám.164.

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Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Jusepe de Ribera 1591-1652, Electa, Nápoles, 1992, pp. 170.

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Ribera, 1591-1652, Catálogo de la exposición celebrada en Madrid, Museo del Prado, 2 junio-16 agosto 1992, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 222-224, nº29.

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Fernández Santos Ortiz Frises ,J, 'Tra libertinaggio e libertinismo. La falsa e la vera Galleria del Duca di Medinaceli, ambasciatore a Roma e Voceré di Napoli' En : L'altro Seicento: arte a Roma tra eterodossia, libertinismo e scienza, L'ERMA di Bretschneider,, 2016, pp. 103-119 [116 f.8].

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1010.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1121.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1121.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 482.
Ribera. / 482. Arquimedes (figura de medio cuerpo) (E.) / Alto 4 pies, 5 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 2 pies, 11 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 482.

Inscriptions +

Jusepe de Ribera español / F. 1630
Inscribed in black. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Théodule Ribot (1823-1891). A Delightful Clarity
16.10.2021 - 10.01.2022

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer. Parallel visions
25.06.2019 - 29.09.2019

Velázquez and the Golden Age
16.11.2018 - 03.03.2019

Masks Schommer
21.07.2014 - 14.09.2014

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Picasso et les maîtres
06.10.2008 - 26.01.2009

Velázquez’s Fables. Mythology and Sacred History in the Golden Age
20.11.2007 - 24.02.2008

Picasso. Tradición y Vanguardia
06.06.2006 - 03.09.2006

Velázquez. Bufones y filósofos
16.11.2005 - 20.02.2006

José de Ribera bajo el signo de Caravaggio (1613 - 1633)
15.09.2005 - 31.10.2005

José de Ribera bajo el signo de Caravaggio (1613 - 1633)
17.06.2005 - 21.08.2005

José de Ribera bajo el signo de Caravaggio (1613 - 1633)
07.04.2005 - 29.05.2005

The Spanish Portrait: From El Greco to Picasso
20.10.2004 - 06.02.2005

IImmagini della sciencia nell´arte italiana
27.03.1999 - 27.06.1999

San Sebastián
24.07.1993 - 05.09.1993

José de Ribera
Nueva York NY
15.09.1992 - 29.11.1992

José de Ribera
02.06.1992 - 16.08.1992

José de Ribera
27.02.1992 - 17.05.1992

Location +

Room 008 (On Display)


Displayed objects +



Update date: 26-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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