Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 76

Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style
Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style
This is clearly demonstrated in the Saint Anthony Abbot
(1636) in Madrid (figs. 17 & 18) and Saint Francis de
Paula (1640) in the Neapolis Collection.21 As mentioned
above, this simple technique, helped Ribera, as he
worked on his paintings, to make the heads stand
out against a background which was not completely
finished and would later be covered by the surrounding
colour. In some cases, due to an increase in refraction in
the oil paint layers, these have gained in transparency,
allowing the “halo” to rise through the layers and
become clearly visible to the naked eye.22
Ribera’s range of pigments does not vary much
throughout his career. In the case of blue, as observed,
in his early career he always chose azurite (except in the
Susanna) and cobalt smalt. Later he began to use lapis
lazuli generously and almost exclusively throughout the
1640s until his death in 1652: for example, in the two
versions of the Adoration of the Shepherds belonging to the
Spanish Patrimonio Nacional, one dated 1640 and the
other probably dating to the 1630s, lapis lazuli is the
main pigment in the Virgin’s mantle.23
Throughout his career, Ribera based his palette mostly
on different coloured earths. Some of these have an
outstanding chromatic intensity, highlighting his
practice of always choosing the best quality pigments
available. Where areas appear to have darkened, it is
usually on account of the ageing of bituminous ochres,
regularly used in the darker areas of paintings. To
some extent this has perhaps misleadingly conditioned
an interpretation of the tenebrist nature of certain
works in which there would originally have been areas
in the background that were more transparent and
Fig 17 / Saint Anthony Abbot,
oil on canvas, 73.5 x 65.5 cm,
Private Collection.
Fig 18 / X-ray detail of the
head in Fig. 17.
Another feature that emerged in the Neapolitan years
and continued until late in his career, is Ribera’s
experimentation with new supports, through which
he sought to exploit the aesthetic qualities of materials
such as wood or copper.


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