Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 44



44
Francisco Ribalta’s Vision of Father Simó: British taste and the legacy of Sebastiano del Piombo in Spanish painting
Francisco Ribalta’s Vision of Father Simó: British taste and the legacy of Sebastiano del Piombo in Spanish painting
45
What is most interesting about them is how thoughtfully
Ribalta has adapted Sebastiano for his own pious
purposes. The body of Christ in the Vision is taken from
the Descent into Limbo, once a wing of the Vich triptych,
a group that Ribalta also copied as a whole. The upper
half of Christ, and some of the accompanying figures,
were taken from the Christ Carrying the Cross. This was
Sebastiano’s earliest version of this subject and more
elaborate than any others that he painted.
Fig. 11 / Sebastiano del
Piombo, Christ Carrying the
Cross, ca. 1513-1514, oil on
canvas, 121 x 100 cm, Madrid,
Museo Nacional del Prado.
Fig. 12 / Sebastiano del
Piombo, The Descent into
Limbo, 1516, oil on canvas,
226 x 114 cm, Madrid, Museo
Nacional del Prado.
early sixteenth century. These were a Christ Carrying
the Cross (fig. 11) and a triptych with a central panel
of the Lamentation, a Descent into Limbo (fig. 12) on one
side, and an unknown subject to the other.45 Alvaro’s
brother and heir, Diego, commissioned from Ribalta’s
son, Juan – among others – a series of portraits of
thirty-one Valencian worthies, including an image
of Jerónimo Simó, which unfortunately does not
survive.46
Fig. 13 / Unknown Artist,
Christ Carrying the Cross on
his way to Calvary, after 1600,
oil on canvas, 199 x 159 cm,
Oxford, Magdalen College
Chapel.
Francisco Ribalta had evidently carefully studied these
works by Sebastiano, for there are innumerable copies
and versions by him, or his workshop, of the Vich
paintings, particularly of the Christ Carrying the Cross.47
Furthermore, while Ribalta’s art was already connected
with that of with Sebastiano, thanks to Ford’s acquisition
of the Vision of Father Jerónimo Simó, Ribalta’s name was
becoming associated in England with the subject of
Christ Carrying the Cross in another way too. Rather
dwarfed by the gothic splendour of Magdalen College
Chapel in Oxford is its high altarpiece, a large Christ
Carrying the Cross (fig. 13), seized during a British naval
raid on Vigo in 1702.48 Here again is a life-size Christ
Carrying the Cross, who dominates the picture surface
to an even greater extent. There is much less incidental
detail, although in the background the procession to
Calvary winds past. Ford mentioned this as a painting
by Ribalta in 1845, and the same attribution can
be found on the label on the back of the National
Gallery painting – where it is described implausibly as
a “replica”.49 In 1891, Stirling Maxwell followed this
opinion. His sentence is worth quoting in full:

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