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The penitent Saint Jerome
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

The penitent Saint Jerome

1652. Oil on canvas.
Room 008

Emerging from a dark background, a half-length image of a man appears in the close foreground, his right shoulder and arm bare, his hair white and long, his features aged. He holds a wooden cross in his left hand and with his right he strikes his chest with a stone. The cross identifies him as a saint; his nakedness and dishevelled appearance indicate he is a hermit or a penitent; the stone with which he wounds himself makes it clear that he is Saint Jerome. Though this attribute was not especially common, it would be sufficiently familiar for a large proportion of its viewers in the Golden Age. As an indication of the accessibility of the reference, one can cite a passage from Lope de Vega´s play, Amar sin saber a quién (Loving without knowing whom) (1620-22), where one of the characters refers to the monastery of Saint Jerome in the following fashion, alluding to the saint´s open wound on his chest: Subí, y piqué al monasterio del santo, que, como carta, hizo sello de una piedra sobre nema colorada. (I spurred [the mule] up to the monastery of that saint who, as upon a letter, making a stamp from a stone, pressed it against a red seal. Act 1, lines 298–301.) Of all the figures from sacred history, Ribera chose to portray Saint Jerome most frequently; nearly 30 paintings feature the saint, in addition to three widely disseminated prints. Images of Jerome appear throughout Ribera´s career and, in fact, his first signed work dated c.1614, was an image of this saint (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). In each case, Ribera avoided the standard iconography of Jerome dressed as a cardinal; rather, the artist presents him with an appearance and dress that emphasise his activity as a penitent -often accompanied by books, so as to recall the intellectual prestige of the man responsible for the Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate. Ribera´s predilection for presenting Jerome´ the penitent reflects not only the artist´s own interests in that aspect of the narrative, but it also responds to the expectations of his patrons and of the Catholic Church during the Counter Reformation. Such images, like similar ones of Mary Magdalene, were a means of defending the doctrine of penitence and repentance. This work, however, dispenses with any allusion to matters of the intellect, instead opting for a presentation that emphasises devotional sentiments. The saint here is not one who thinks or meditates but rather a believer who feels. The entire work communicates a sense of longing: the figure´s proximity in the foreground bringing him closer to the viewer; his expectant gaze toward heaven; his tousled, unkempt hair and beard suggesting a man who lives separate from any human contact; his body leaning forward; the determination with which he grasps the cross and the rock; even the brushwork itself. Ribera has executed the painting with extraordinarily lively brushstrokes, agile and confident, creating an impastoed texture that is particularly dense in the areas of his hands and hair, which have been built up from a series of rapid, clean, distinct touches of the brush. The format of this painting is almost square, something that is infrequent in Ribera´s output. The painting is signed and dated 1652, when the artist had already turned 60, and he had only a few remaining months of life. A comparison of this work with his earlier representations of Saint Jerome demonstrates the extent to which, over the course of his career, he had increasingly sought to provoke the viewer´s affective involvement, and how here he managed to achieve that objective (Portús, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 136).


Technical data

Related artworks

San Jerónimo penitente
Etching, Roulette on paper, 1875
Maura y Montaner, Bartolomé
Inventory number
Ribera, Jusepe de, lo Spagnoletto
The penitent Saint Jerome
Height: 77.2 cm; Width: 71.8 cm
Royal Collection (Elizabeth of Farnese Collection, La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace, Segovia, "pieza donde se decía misa antiguamente", 1746, n. 517; La Granja Palace, "pieza tercera de azulejos", 1766, n. 517; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de retrete", 1794, n. 517; Royal Palace, Madrid, "dormitorio de príncipes-pieza séptima", 1814-1818, n. 517).

Bibliography +

Palacio del Real Sitio de San Ildefonso. La Granja., Inventario general Pinturas, Muebles y otras alhajas de la Reina Nuestra Señora que tiene en el Palacio del Real Sitio de San Ildefonso, VII, Madrid, 1746, pp. 39.

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario historico de los mas ilustres profesores de las belllas artes en España, IV, en la imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, 1800, pp. 193.

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del Rey, Madrid, 1834, pp. 17.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo ilustrado de la Sala de Velázquez en el Museo del Prado, J. Laurent y Cia., Fotógrafos Editores, Madrid, 1899, pp. 25.

Trapier, Elizabeth du Gué, Ribera, Nueva York, 1952, pp. 227.

Felton, C., Jusepe Ribera. A catalogue raisonné, Pittsburg, 1971, pp. 115.

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

Spinosa, Nicola, La obra pictórica completa de Ribera /, Noguer, Barcelona Madrid, 1978, pp. 125.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 552.

De Greco à Picasso, Cinq Siècles d' Art espagnol, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1987, pp. 142.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº269.

Garcia-Noriega y Nieto, L., Presencia del Museo del Prado en Mexico. José de Ribera, Fundación Cultural Televisa, Mexico, 1990.

Jusepe de Ribera, Piero CorsinoInc., Nueva York, 1992.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Jusepe de Ribera 1591-1652, Electa, Nápoles, 1992, pp. 276.

Ribera, 1591-1652, Catálogo de la exposición celebrada en Madrid, Museo del Prado, 2 junio-16 agosto 1992, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 398.

Ribera, 1591-1652, Fundación Social y Cultural Kutxa, San Sebastián, 1993.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura barroca española: guía, Museo Nacional del PradoAldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 42.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Jusepe de Ribera el Españoleto, Lunwerg, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 126-127.

Spinosa, Nicola, Ribera, Electa, Napoli, 2003, pp. 344.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 454.

Aún aprendo : últimas obras de Tiziano a Tápies, M. Arte Contemp. Esteban Vicente, Segovia, 2007.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Ribera, Polígrafa, Barcelona, 2011, pp. 116.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 136-137, nº29.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1098.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1098.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 269.
Ribera. / 269. San Geronimo. (Busto con manos). / En ellas una cruz y un guijarro. / Alto 2 pies, 9 pulg; ancho 2 pies, 6 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 269.

Inv. Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 517.
Una Pintura origl en Lienzo de mano de Jph. Rivera, que reptª Sn Geronimo con un Canto en la manoo derecha, y la Cruz en la izquierda. Tiene tres quartas y ocho dedos de alto. tres, y quatro de ancho. Marco dorado con Targetas a las Esquinas ... 1

Inv. Testamentaría Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1766. Núm. 517.
Pieza tercera de Azulejos [...] 517 / Otro [quadro] de tres pies de alto, y quasi lo mismo de ancho, marco dorado, con targetas, representa à sn Geronimo, del Españoleto, vale quatrocientos rs

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 517.
Dormitorio de Principes [...] Pieza septima [...] {21745} 517 / Vara y cuarta en cuadro San Jerónimo con la cruz y el canto en las manos = Ribera

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 517.
Pieza de Retrete [...] {509} 517 / Vara en quadro: Sn. Geronimo. Rivera ... 3000

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 996.

Inscriptions +

Jusepe de / Ribera / español / , F , 1652
Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Fleur-de-lis, used as a collection’s mark belonging to Elisabeth Farnese. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in gray. 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

Aún aprendo. Últimas obras de Tiziano a Tàpies
25.09.2007 - 13.01.2008

El salvaje europeo
15.06.2004 - 31.08.2004

El salvaje europeo
18.02.2004 - 23.05.2004

José de Ribera. El Españoleto
México D.F.
08.05.2003 - 30.09.2003

San Sebastián
24.07.1993 - 05.09.1993

José de Ribera
02.06.1992 - 16.08.1992

José de Ribera
27.02.1992 - 17.05.1992

Presencia del Museo del Prado en Méjico
México D.F.
07.12.1989 - 07.06.1990

Cinco Siglos de Arte Español
05.10.1987 - 05.01.1988

Location +

Room 008 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Attributes of Saints or Martyrs: El santo aparece representado con una piedra, símbolo del rigor de la penitencia que realizó. Estuvo un total de cuatro años en el desierto golpeándose el pecho para alejar de su cuerpo y de su mente toda tentación (Carmona Muela, J.: Iconografía cristiana, 2003, p. 87).


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

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