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Ribera y Fernández, Juan Antonio

Madrid, 27.5.1779 - Madrid (Spain), 15.6.1860

Ribera surpasses José de Madrazo and José Aparicio (1770-1838) of Alicante as the finest and most skilled of Spain's neoclassical painters, but he was overshadowed by his colleagues' greater projection and his humble personal character slowed his artistic career. A disciple of Francisco Bayeu (1734-1795) and religious image-maker, José Piquer—the father of the sculptor of the same name—Ribera won second prize at the Academia de San Fernando's contest in 1802 with a copy of a work at the Museo del Prado: Raphael's Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary. This led to a royal pension to travel to Rome, where was a disciple of Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) for several years, painting rigorously neoclassical works such as Cincinnati Abandoning the Plow to Dictate Laws to Rome, probably from 1806. That same year he entered the School of Fine Arts in Paris as a student. That painting, which was one of the most renowned works of his time, was a masterpiece of Spanish neoclassical painting and it earned him an extension of his pension, as well as a firm invitation from the Russian ambassador to Paris to move to Saint Petersburg and work at court there. Ribera eventually declined that invitation, and in 1812 he was appointed chamber painter to Charles IV, whom he accompanied on his exile to Rome after the conclusion of his pension to Paris. During those years, his wife gave birth to his only son, who followed his father's footsteps and eventually became the renowned Romantic portrait painter, Carlos Luis de Ribera (1815-1891). In Rome, Juan Antonio made a series of religious paintings, continued work as a copyist and was received as an academician at the Accademia di San Luca. At that time, he made one of his most impressive works, "Christ Crucified", now at the El Pardo Palace, as well as his four "Allegories of the Seasons", which are at the Museo del Prado.

After the Peninsular War ended, his post at court was confirmed by Ferdinand VII and he returned to Spain in 1818. He was received at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid as an academician in 1820, made royal portraits and began painting the "Parnassus of Great Men of Spain" in one of the El Pardo Palace's domes in 1825. Four years later, he painted the "Apotheosis of King Ferdinand of Castile" as a fresco in the dome of the room adjoining the famous Gasparini Hall at Madrid's Royal Palace. In 1826 he was part of a commission that visited the royal seats to choose paintings for the Real Museo del Prado, and the following year he was elected assistant director of studies at the Academy, where he would be appointed professor of life drawing in 1838. On May 26, 1857 Queen Elizabeth II appointed him first chamber painter and director of the Real Museo de Pinturas after José de Madrazo resigned from that post. As director of the museum, he paid particular attention to the restoration of antique paintings, a matter that had led to Madrazo's departure. He also increased security, improved basic infrastructure and published a fifth catalog of the Real Museo, which was maintained until 1868 (G. Navarro, C. in: "El siglo XIX en el Prado", Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, p. 485).

Artworks (5)

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