Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 150

Saint Paul is depicted full-face, looking resolutely out at the viewer.
He leans on a sword, symbol of his martyrdom. The decision to
eschew idealized figures in favour of ordinary men as models for
his apostles lends a sense of immediacy to Ribera’s paintings that
clearly met with the approval of his contemporaries. This aspect,
as in the present work, is augmented by an intense realism and
striking handling of paint which imbue his apostles with a sense
of grandeur and dignity.
Part of Ribera’s artistic reputation rested on his unrivalled
technical skill, manifesting itself, amongst other things, in his
ability to enliven the features of his models with rich and vigorous
impasto strokes and highlights, particularly noticeable across
Saint Paul’s forehead and around the eyes. The lighter palette,
discernible in the light red cloak and pinkish hues of the skin, are
typical of the second half of Ribera’s career, and possibly reflect
his study of the works of Rubens and Van Dyck, which would
have been available to him in the collections of the Neapolitan
nobility. All of these aspects, combined with the fine state of
preservation, lends Saint Paul a marked vivacity which the apostle
has retained to this day.
W ill E lliott


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