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Jusepe de Ribera

Saint Joseph


Jusepe de Ribera
Játiva, Spain, 1591 – Naples 1652


Saint Joseph


About 1635


Oil on canvas


71.8 x 61.9 cm


William J. Morrice Bequest, inv. 1943.815


Western Art

Born in Spain, Jusepe de Ribera spent his entire active career in Italy. He arrived in Spanish-ruled Naples between 1607 and 1614. Caravaggio’s presence had a profound impact on Neapolitan painting. Ribera then travelled to Parma, Rome, before settling in Naples. There, his works found critical appreciation and a ready market, and he became a protégé of the Spanish viceroy, the Duke of Osuna. Caravaggio’s tenebrism and realism profoundly influenced our artist’s painting style. Ribera distinguished himself from other Caravaggesque artists by his use of chiaroscuro (light-to-dark) contrast less to create theatrically dramatic scenes than a mysterious, spiritual context while maintaining a sober calm and balance in his compositions. This painting is typical of his devotional images presented in the Apostolado format (series of portraits of the twelve apostles) that had been developed earlier in Flanders and Spain. It infuses a remarkably spontaneous and truthful character to the subject: Joseph, Mary’s husband, is shown as an elderly man holding a flowering branch. According to legend, when Joseph, among the Virgin’s suitors, placed a branch upon the altar, it burst into bloom. The entire focus of this work is on the moving expression of the subject, who conveys wonder and gratitude for the miracle.

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