Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 139

Játiva, Valencia, 1591 – Naples, 1652
A Philosopher Holding a Mirror
Oil on canvas
114.4 x 80.1 cm
Signed lower left: Jusepe de Ribera F
This powerful and mysterious picture was executed by Jusepe di
Doña Ángeles Solar, Bilbao, by 1950, and by descent until
Ribera, one of the most significant painters of the seventeenth
Christie’s, London, 2 July 2013, lot 34.
century and an important figure in the art of the post-Tridentine
Private Collection, Europe.
period. The painting re-emerged on the art market in 2013, at
which time its autograph status was confirmed by Nicola Spinosa
on the basis of photographs.
Matías Díaz Padrón, “Dos Grecos y un Jusepe Ribera inéditos,”
Archivo Español de Arte 45 (1972): pp. 318-320, fig. 5, as “el
Depicting a middle-aged philosopher gazing pensively into
original,” signed, possessing “Vigor de factura y plasticidad. Su
a mirror, the painting has prompted a number of different
calidad no demerece con las piezas de Ribera del mayor rango,
interpretations. These range from an “Allegory of Sight” to a
e la época primera.” Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez and Nicola
Spinosa, L’opera completa del Ribera (Milan: Rizzoli, 1978), p. 127,
no. 236, as a version of a lost original, bearing an “apocryphal
signature”; Benedict Nicholson, Caravaggism in Europe, ed. Luis
Vertova, 3 vols. (Turin: Allemandi, 1990), I, p. 162, no. 484; II,
fig. 484, as signed; Nicola Spinosa, Ribera: L’opera completa (Naples:
Electa Napoli, 2003), pp. 350 and 395, under no. B15, as one of
many copies after a lost original; Nicola Spinosa, Ribera: L’opera
putative self-portrait once attributed to Caravaggio. A further
hypothesis interprets the figure as Archimedes, whose many
technological innovations included experiments with mirrors. A
painting depicting Archimedes was recorded in the Giustiniani
inventories, and the figure’s studious contemplation of the mirror
could indicate a scientist assessing the potential applications of
one of his instruments. However, the most convincing reading,
completa, 2nd ed. (Naples: Electa Napoli, 2006), pp. 298 and 436,
suggested by Delphine Fitz Darby, interprets the figure as
under no. A93, as one of “numerose repliche o copie antiche”;
Socrates.1 The searching look reflected in the mirror symbolizes
Nicola Spinosa, Ribera. La obra completa (Madrid: Fundación Arte
the quest for self-knowledge surmised in the famous Socratic
Hispánico, 2008), p. 371, under no. A113, as one of “numerosas
dictum “Gnothi seauton” (Know thyself), put forth in Plato’s
replicas o copias antiguas.”
dialogue Phaedrus. The associations with Socratic/Platonic
theory would not have been lost on the learned Ribera or his
patron, the 3rd Duke of Alcalá, Fernando Enríquez Afán de
El arte en la época de Calderon, exh. cat. (Madrid: Palacio de
Ribera. Furthermore the satyr-like features of the depicted
Velázquez, Parque del Retiro, 1981-1982).
philosopher, with his domed forehead and snub-nose, appear


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