Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 140

to have been modeled on the celebrated antique marble head
a copy in an American private collection and two eighteenth-
further added an important group of ancient and modern
of Socrates (fig. 19.1), which Ribera might have known through
century engravings of a painting in the collection of the Duc
sculptures, including the Flora and Camillus (cat. no. 8) and the
examples belonging to the Giustiniani (now Rome, Museo
d’Orléans, where it was considered a self-portrait by Caravaggio
Hercules (cat. no. 9) included in the present catalogue. From
Nazionale Romano, Terme), the Farnese (now Naples, Museo
(fig. 19.3). The vigour and quality of the execution, and the
1604, Fernando Enríquez, the 3rd duke, expanded the Casa
Archeologico) or Alcalá himself, who commissioned Ribera’s
authentic signature, formed the basis of Díaz Padrón’s strong
de Pilatos establishing a new library and picture gallery, with
erudite Teoxenia (partially destroyed; fragments in Madrid, Museo
support for the work’s primacy. Prior to this, publishing one
ceiling decorations by Francisco Pacheco. In 1625 the duke was
del Prado). Stylistically the daring and unusual composition of
of the engravings after the Orléans picture, Elizabeth du Gué
appointed Ambassador to the Holy See in Rome. There he may
the Philosopher, with the figure effectively turning his back on
Trapier, suggested that the subject was an “Allegory of Sight” and
have seen Ribera’s works in Roman collections like that of the
the viewer, is comparable to Ribera’s early, Roman-period Saint
that the lost painting completed the set of Ribera’s Five Senses (ca.
Giustiniani. Arriving in Naples in 1629, the duke became one
Gregory the Great (ca. 1613-1615; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte
1611-1615). However, the publication by Roberto Longhi of a
of the artist’s primary clients, commissioning several works,
Antica, Palazzo Barberini) (fig. 19.2).
complete set of copies of the lost series demonstrated conclusively
including the remarkable Portrait of Magdalena Venturi (the Bearded
that the Allegory of Sight presented a different composition,
Woman), now in Toledo (Palacio Lerma, Fundación Casa Ducal
The present painting was brought to the attention of modern
showing a man holding a telescope (Mexico City, Museo Franz
de Medinaceli), and the series of Twelve Philosophers to which the
scholars by Matías Díaz Padrón, who proposed it as the
Mayer). As noted, Delphine Fitz Darby identified the subject as a
present work probably belonged.
prototype by Ribera for a composition then known through
philosopher – first Seneca and then Socrates – an interpretation
One of the most complex problems of Ribera scholarship concerns
that has wide acceptance among Ribera scholars. 7
the reconstruction of the Alcalá Philosophers series. According to
The picture remained largely inaccessible to scholars until 2013.
Spinosa this probably included: Democritus (Madrid, Museo del
Prior to this, it was often categorized as a copy after a lost original,
Prado), Aesop (New York, Private Collection), Euclid (Santiago
despite Díaz Padrón’s endorsement of the attribution to Ribera.
de Chile, Apelles Collection), Plato (Amiens, Musée de Picardie),
The painting’s high quality and signature seem to confirm that
Thales (Paris, Private Collection), Heraclitus (sold at Christie’s,
the painting was the prime version in a set of twelve philosophers
New York, 6 April 2006, lot 69) or a different Heraclitus with
painted for Ribera’s major patron in the period 1629-1631, Don
Pythagoras as its pendant (both Valencia, Museo San Pio V),
Fernando Enríquez Afán de Ribera, 3 Duke of Alcalá, Viceroy
as well as a number of identified philosophers in the University
of Naples (and later of Sicily, 1632-1636).
Fig. 19.2 Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Gregory the Great, ca. 1612-15, oil on canvas,
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.
of Arizona Art Museum in Tucson and J. Paul Getty Museum
in Los Angeles.8 The paintings that may have formed part of
The 3rd Duke of Alcalá belonged to one of the most important
the original series are all of similar dimensions. The present
collecting families of Seville at a time when the city was one of
composition corresponds to these dimensions and was well known
Europe’s greatest centres of learning and wealth. His ancestor,
and admired by contemporaries, demonstrated by its inclusion in
Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera, 1 Marqués of Tarifa, had filled
a set of six copies, formerly in the collection of Count Matarazzo
the family palace, Casa de Pilatos (see intro. fig. 10), with an
di Licosa, Naples.9 In 2006 Spinosa suggested that the prototype
extraordinary collection. Per Afán de Ribera, 1st Duke of Alcalá,
for our composition could the damaged version in the Meadows
Museum, Dallas10; however, the fact that the present version is
signed makes it much more likely to be the original painted for
Fig. 19.1 After Lysippos (4 th cent. BCE),
Socrates, 1 st century AD, marble, 33 cm
high, Paris, Musée du Louvre.
Alcalá: several of the best philosophers in the series are similarly
signed, with variations of the formula “Jusepe de Ribera español F.”11


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