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Saint Juan de Ribera
Morales, Luis de
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Morales, Luis de

Badajoz (Spain), 1510 - Alcántara? (Spain), 1586

See author's file

Saint Juan de Ribera

Ca. 1566. Oil, Tempera on panel.
Room 052C

It is not known when or how these two paintings -Saint Juan de Ribera and Saint John the Baptist (P950)- came to be the property of Luisa Enríquez, but their common provenance has never been seen as an indication of a link with the same group of art works. However, the technical study that was recently carried out on the two panels shows that they are directly and unequivocally related in the oak wood used for them (which came from the same tree), their width without the lateral additions (33 cm), and the type of construction of the support. This suggests they may have been paired in some way, and perhaps formed different pieces of the same set. They are not the front and back of the same panel, nor a single scene cut down the middle, but probably, given their narrow width, the wings of a small altarpiece with doors, of characteristics similar to those of the Triptych of Bishop Juan de Ribera at the Museo de Cádiz, where the same personage, Morales’s patron during his period as Bishop of Badajoz between 1562 and 1568, is also portrayed.

After that hypothetical altarpiece was dismembered at an unknown date, the two panels were manipulated in the same way so that they could be displayed as independent pictures. Their height was reduced, and their breadth was increased by about 7 cm in both cases (in other words, around 23% of their original width) with two pinewood boards positioned on either side. In the case of Saint Juan de Ribera, the hands were painted over. They appear in the X-radiograph in the same position as those of Ribera portrayed as donor in the Cádiz triptych. The repainting was subsequently reinforced with a slight darkening of the greenish background, as demonstrated on the one hand by chemical analysis, and on the other by a photograph of the picture taken by José Lacoste y Borde before 1915, which shows a lighter background than the one we see today. Paradoxically, these manipulations have aided the paintings’ critical reception, persuading all art historians to regard the Saint Juan de Ribera panel as an unexpected precursor of the so-called civil portrait, and so focusing attention on Morales’s abilities as a portraitist.

The establishment of links between the supports of the two paintings, their relation through the same problems of conservation, and the hypothesis that they might have formed part of the same triptych all raise a number of interesting questions that help to understand the complexity of Morales’s heterogeneous creative process. The two panels are clearly interrelated and their authorship is indisputable, but they present evident aesthetic differences and are distinct in terms of technique. It is rather as though the painter had borne in mind that on the one hand he was going to paint a portrait with heightened realism and little in the way of technical virtuosity, very much in keeping with the austere spirit of his sitter, while on the other hand his panel of Saint John the Baptist was to represent one of the most frequently depicted saints, and so his artistic contribution in this case was to rest principally on quality, with a free and rapid underdrawing but a surface finish of extraordinary finesse and attention to detail. There are also differences in the proportion and height of the heads, which would have been more evident in the narrower original format. Finally, there are differences too in the postures, since whereas the portrait was directly connected with the central panel of the supposed triptych, the pose and gaze of the Baptist are in closer relation with the viewer. Even so, it cannot be ruled out that his index finger was pointing at a central panel, perhaps an Ecce Homo or the Fifth Sorrow referred to in a bill of payment dated January 1567.

Where the figures are concerned, Saint John the Baptist has never raised problems of identification. Morales generally paints him with his face turned to the side, his gaze melancholic, and his threadbare hermit’s apparel simulating the camel hair he is shown as wearing in the traditional iconography. The identity of Saint Juan de Ribera, on the other hand, was more difficult to establish. The painting went from being a Jesuit to Blessed Juan de Villegas and a Portrait of Saint Ignatius, and it was not until the research of Robres and Castell and of Rodríguez-Moñino that the sitter’s identity was definitively revealed (Text drawn from García-Máiquez, J. in: The Divine Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, pp. 200-204).


Technical data

Inventory number
Morales, Luis de
Saint Juan de Ribera
Ca. 1566
Oil; Tempera
Height: 52.3 cm; Width: 40 cm
Collection of Luisa Enríquez y Valdés, 1891-1896; entered the Museo del Prado as part of the bequest of Luisa Enríquez y Valdés, 1896.

Bibliography +

Berjano Escobar, Daniel, El Pintor Luis de Morales el Divino, [s.n], Madrid, 1917, pp. 114.

Varia, Identificación del eclesiástico retratado por Morales en el Museo del Prado, Archivo español de arte y arqueología, 18, 1945, pp. 61.

Rodriguez Moñino, A., El beato Juan de Ribera, Arte Español. Revista Española de Arte, 16, 1946/47, pp. 39.

Ars hispaniae: historia universal del arte hispánico, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1947, pp. 245, lám. 256.

Tormo y Monzó, Elías 1869-1957, Pintura, escultura y arquitectura en España, Instituto Diego Velázquez de Arte y Arqueología, Madrid, 1949, pp. lam. 13.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Pintura del Renacimiento, XII, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1955, pp. 245, lám. 256.

Carlos V y su ambiente: exposición-homenaje en el IV Centenario, Ministerio de Educación Nacional, Toledo, 1958, pp. 94.

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis de Morales, C.S.I.C. Inst. Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1961, pp. 43-44, 163, láms. 23, 40.

Backsbacka, Ingjald, Luis de Morales, Helsingfords, Helsinki, 1962, pp. 162, n. 21.

Santa Teresa y su tiempo, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Dirección Gener, Madrid, 1970, pp. n. 20.

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 434.

Menendez Pidal, R., Historia de España. Vol. XXVI. El Siglo del Quijote, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1986, pp. 408, lám. 144.

Rodríguez G. de Ceballos, Alfonso, El mundo espirtual del pintor Luis de Morales en el centenario de su muerte, Goya: Revista de arte, 196, 1987, pp. 194-6.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

La monarquía hispánica: Felipe II, un monarca y su época, Sociedad Estatal para la Conmemoración de los Cent, Madrid, 1998.

Solís Rodriguez, Carmelo, Luis de Morales, Fundacion Caja de Badajoz, Badajoz, 1999, pp. 208, 209, n. 26.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 60.

Antonio, T. de, San Juan de Ribera (1564). En: Ruiz Gómez, L.: El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 48, n. 3.

García Maiquez, Jaime, 'Luis de Morales.San Juan de Ribera' En:, El Divino Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 200-204 n.58.

Jover de Celis, M. Alba, L. Gayo, M. García-Máiquez, J, 'En el taller de Luis de Morales' En:, Luis de Morales, Diputación de Badajoz,, 2018, pp. 97-113 [109 f.26].

Luis de Morales, Diputación de Badajoz,, 2018, pp. n.5.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1241.
Autor - Morales- / 1241. Cabeza del beato Juan de Villegas (tabla) alto 0,47; ancho 0,34

Exhibitions +

Morales 2018: El Renacimiento de la Eurociudad
02.10.2018 - 14.11.2018

El Divino Morales
16.06.2016 - 25.09.2016

El Divino Morales
09.02.2016 - 16.05.2016

El Divino Morales
06.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

The Divine Morales
01.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Masks Schommer
21.07.2014 - 14.09.2014

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
12.06.2007 - 02.09.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
05.03.2007 - 20.05.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
12.12.2006 - 18.02.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
19.09.2006 - 26.11.2006

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
22.06.2006 - 21.08.2006

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Santiago de Compostela
09.03.2006 - 14.05.2006

Felipe II. La monarquía hispánica
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
30.05.1998 - 31.10.1998

Location +

Room 052C (On Display)

Update date: 07-10-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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