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Saint Matthew and Saint John the Evangelist
Ribalta, Juan
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Ribalta, Juan

Madrid, 1596 - Valencia, 1628

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Saint Matthew and Saint John the Evangelist

Ca. 1625. Oil on canvas.
Room 010B

In this painting, two men wearing tunics kneel next to a rocky crag, past which, in the distance, a stormy landscape opens up. The elder of the two men bends over a sheaf of papers on which he writes, using the surface of a rock as a desk. The other man points his right index finger to a page, while his other hand and his feverish gaze are directed heavenward. The younger of the two is the evangelist Saint John, as indicated by his youth, his visionary attitude and the eagle at his side, a bird that, like him, fearlessly stares directly at the sun and which became the saint´s attribute. His companion is the evangelist Saint Matthew, who is frequently accompanied by an angel as his attribute in the iconographic tradition. This painting´s pendant is a work of similar dimensions that portrays the two other evangelists, Mark and Luke (P2965). The horizontal format of the two paintings suggests that they once belonged to the lower portion of an altarpiece, known as the predella, which was a highly suitable place for the representation of the evangelists. The style is characteristic of both Juan Ribalta and his father Francisco Ribalta (1565-1628). Both artists were based in Valencia in the first decades of the seventeenth century and cultivated a naturalistic style in their works. Although scholars were initially inclined to attribute the painting to Francisco, in the last few decades, they have come to unanimously ascribe it to Juan. His authorship is indicated by the very precise technique with which the scene is depicted, as well as its having stylistic elements in common with a painting of Saint John the Evangelist in the Prado (P3044), which is signed by Juan Ribalta. It shares, for example, the summary approach to the folds in the mantle and the carefully and convincingly executed hand and forearm. The manner in which Juan Ribalta has represented the two evangelists is unique in narrative and formal terms, as well in his use of colour. Rather than isolating the saints in their studies, he brings them together in a natural setting closed in by the rocky outcrop. The dramatic atmosphere suggests the figure of the intellectual hermit. Although they appear together, both Matthew and John respond independently to their mystical callings, with an earnestness that seems to isolate each saint in his own visionary world. Matthew’s whole body communicates his tense concentration on his task and his obliviousness to his surroundings. This tension extends from his calloused, wrinkled feet, through his right knee awkwardly pressed against a rock, to his hand that holds the pen. John, meanwhile, provides a felicitous counterpoint to Matthew´s cramped posture, as he lifts his body and arm, a gesture echoed in the eagle beside him. John´s figure is marked by its great beauty and the expressive contrast between his right foot and hand, which press against the rock, and his left hand and face, which point toward heaven in a gesture that conveys all the yearning of the mystical experience. The sense of the saints´ withdrawal and yearning is accentuated by both the impending storm, whose lyricism recalls the landscapes by Pedro Orrente (P1015), and the precise naturalist technique that allows the artist to bestow every detail with significance. This painting and its pendant came to the Prado from the Royal Collections, which the paintings probably entered during the reign of Charles IV. It has been supposed that they were among the Valencian artists´ paintings that the monarch purchased during his voyage to the east coast of Spain in 1802, as he sought to ensure the Valencian school was well represented in the Royal Collections (Text drawn from Portús, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 134).

Technical data

Related artworks

Saint Mark and Saint Luke
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1625
Ribalta, Juan
Inventory number
Ribalta, Juan
Saint Matthew and Saint John the Evangelist
Ca. 1625
Height: 66 cm; Width: 102 cm
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del R, [s.n, Madrid, 1834, pp. 22.

Viñaza, Cipriano Muñoz y ManzanoConde de, Adiciones al diccionario histórico de los mas ilustres profe, III, [s.n.], Madrid, 1894, pp. 297.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catalogo ilustrado de la Sala de Velazquez en el Museo del P, J. Laurent y Cia., Fotógrafos Editores, Madrid, 1899, pp. 39.

Mayer, August L., Jusepe de Ribera. Lo Spagnoleto, verlag von Karl W. Hiersemann, 1923, pp. 250.

Camón Aznar, J., Los Ribaltas, Ministerio de Educación Nacional, 1958, pp. 29.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Historia de la pintura española: escuela toledana de la primera mitad del siglo XVII, Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1972, pp. 346.

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

Puente, Joaquín de la, Del Greco a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1978.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Panorama de la pintura española desde los Reyes Católicos a, Servicio de Publicaciones del Instituto de Coopera, Madrid, 1980, pp. 46.

Kowal, D., The Life and Art of Francisco Ribalta 1565-1628, I, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981, pp. 498-500.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 546.

Kowal, David M., Ribalta y los ribaltescos: la evolución del estilo barroco e, Diputación Provincial, 1985, pp. 115-117, 187-188.

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

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Acisclo Antonio, Vidas, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 108.

Los Ribalta y la pintura valenciana de su tiempo /, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1987.

Benito Domènech, Fernando (1949-2001)), The paintings of Ribalta : 1565/1628 /, Diputacion provincial, Nueva York, 1988, pp. 122.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. 104.

El Segle D'Or de la Pintura Espanyola al Museu del Prado, Vegueria Episcopal, Andorra, 1991.

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1993, pp. 120.

Luci del secolo d'oro spagnolo, Unione LatinaPinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Bolonia, 1998, pp. 241.

El arte en la España del Quijote, Empresa Pública Don Quijote de la Mancha 2005, Ciudad Real, 2005, pp. 138, nº17.

Reino y ciudad. Valencia en su historia. Regne i ciutat. Valencia..., Fundación Caja Madrid, Madrid, 2007.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 134-135, nº28.

Marco García, Victor, Pintura barroca en Valencia, 1600-1737, CEEH, Centro de Estudios de Europa Hispánica, Madrid, 2021, pp. 432 nº 7.2.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 331.
Ribalta. / 331. Los evangelistas San Juan y San Mateo. / (C.L.). / Alto 2 pies, 4 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 3 pies, 8 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 950.
950.-Los evangelistas San Juan y San Mateo. / Alto 0,66. Ancho 1,02.-Lienzo. / En lugar desierto y fragoso, entre rocas pobladas de arbustos, donde el silencio y la soledad convidan á meditar, están congregados los dos evangelistas: el uno de ellos, San Mateo, anciano y barbado, arrodillado sobre unas peñas, vestido con túnica de color amarillo rebajado y manto morado muy oscuro, en acción de escribir su Evangelio, en el que fija toda su atención; y el otro, joven y de barba naciente, como se representa al discípulo amado de Jesus, con túnica de color de rosa rebajado y manto azul verdoso...

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

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

Reino y ciudad. Valencia en su historia
17.04.2007 - 15.07.2007

El arte en la España del Quijote
Ciudad Real
03.11.2005 - 26.02.2006

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
25.02.1994 - 27.03.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
21.01.1994 - 20.02.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
17.12.1993 - 16.01.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
12.11.1993 - 12.12.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
08.10.1993 - 07.11.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
03.09.1993 - 03.10.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
29.07.1993 - 29.08.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
25.06.1993 - 25.07.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
21.05.1993 - 20.06.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
15.04.1993 - 06.05.1993

Pintura española del Siglo de Oro
Andorra la Vella
07.05.1991 - 25.05.1991

Las pinturas de Francisco Ribalta 1565 - 1628
Nueva York NY
14.10.1988 - 08.12.1988

Ribalta y la pintura valenciana de su tiempo
09.12.1987 - 07.02.1988

Ribalta y la pintura valenciana de su tiempo
30.10.1987 - 30.11.1987

Location +

Room 010B (On Display)


Displayed objects +



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

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